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Concerns hang over TAPI prospects

May 31, 2012 at 7:11 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 31 (UPI) -- A natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan has the political backing needed to progress, though regional instability could pose problems, an analyst said.

The government of Turkmenistan signed agreements last week to sell natural gas to its Asian partners through a 1,043-mile pipeline through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Saqib Sherani, a former adviser to the Pakistani Finance Ministry, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Pakistani officials remain skeptical about the prospects for the pipeline.

"I think it is going to be a big challenge because no consortium is really going to start work or put their money where their mouth is until the Afghan situation settles down," he said.

Islamabad, he added, is leaning toward an alternative project proposed by Iran. That pipeline would be "much more feasible," he said, especially if India came on board.

TAPI, supported by the United States and backed by the Asian Development Bank, is seen as a rival to a pipeline planned by Iran. Tehran said much of the pipeline is built through its territory and it was ready to help Pakistan build its part of the project.

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