BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 22 (UPI) -- Natural gas from Iraq and Iran is needed for the Nabucco natural gas pipeline to Europe if the project is to get off the ground, officials in Azerbaijan said.
Europe is pushing for the Nabucco gas pipeline to break the Russian grip on the regional energy sector. The European government recently allocated millions of dollars in funding for the project, though supplier nations are slow to commit formally.
Resource-rich Azerbaijan is seen as a likely supplier to the 2,000-mile pipeline. Azeri Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev, however, said Iran and Iraq could emerge as possible suppliers for Nabucco in the coming years, London's Independent newspaper reports from Baku.
"In a few years, when the Iran and Iraq situation is more stable politically, we will be able to implement the Nabucco project speedily," he said.
Natural gas from the Kurdish north of Iraq is mentioned as a possible source for Nabucco given the close proximity to the planned route through Turkey. Iran sits on some of the largest natural gas deposits in the world, though Western officials have rejected any possibility for an Iranian role in Nabucco.
Austrian energy giant OMV, a partner in the Nabucco consortium, said the project might not see the light of day without adequate supplies.
Christian Dolezal, the spokesman for the Nabucco gas pipeline consortium, told the Azeri news agency News.Az last week, however, that Nabucco "construction will start at the end of 2011."