Islamabad divided over gas pipeline option

Nov. 29, 2011 at 6:46 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A Pakistani official acknowledged the government was at odds over whether to support a natural gas pipeline from Iran or one from Turkmenistan.

Iran wants to build a pipeline to Pakistan from its giant South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf. Washington, however, supports a rival project that would deliver natural gas from fields in Turkmenistan through a pipeline that would cut through Afghan territory.

An official in the Pakistani Ministry of Industries told The Daily Times newspaper in Pakistan, on condition of anonymity, that Islamabad was divided over the project. The pipeline from Iran, the government notes, is much cheaper than the one from Turkmenistan.

Ashgabat and Islamabad in October signed a draft deal on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, however, and the government in Turkmenistan said a steering committee for TAPI was already in full swing and holding regular meetings.

Islamabad, meanwhile, said it fears the ongoing war in Afghanistan would undermine any further progress on TAPI. Iran's pipeline won't cross Afghanistan and the Iranian section is nearly completed, supporters argue.

Through both, one official told the newspaper, Islamabad could secure 70 percent of its natural gas needs.

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