NATIONAL

India, Iran to complete study on gas pipeline

NEW DELHI, FEB. 26. The Secretary of the Iranian National Security Council, Hasan Rowhani, said today that India and Iran had agreed to complete the feasibility studies on the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline within a matter of months.

Dr. Rowhani, who held talks with the National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, and called on the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, told presspersons that once the feasibility studies were completed, the two countries could take further steps on the pipeline front.

(In his meeting with the Prime Minister, Dr. Rowhani conveyed the greetings of the President, Mohammed Khatami, to Mr. Vajpayee. He also reiterated the invitation to the Prime Minister to visit Iran, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said).

Denying that Pakistan had supplied any nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Dr. Rowhani confirmed that 14 years ago "some parts" had been bought from a dealer. The go-betweens were Europeans, he said.

The dealers themselves were not specific about where they got the parts from, he said, adding that since many of them had now been arrested, they could now reveal the source of their supplies.

Answering several questions on the subject, Dr. Rowhani blamed industrialised countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for not supplying technology for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy to those who were signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"If they had done so, there was no need for us to buy parts," he said, underlining again the "peaceful nature" of the Iranian nuclear programme.

Referring to his talks with Mr. Mishra, the Iranian official said they had discussed common efforts against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and organised crime. The stability of Afghanistan and the situation in Iraq also came up for discussion, he said.

Welcoming the recent dialogue between India and Pakistan, Dr. Rowhani hoped that India would continue to take a position on Iran-related nuclear questions at the IAEA in the context of the common view taken by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

"The suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran is a voluntary action to create further confidence. In the context of the NPT, those who have signed are permitted to enrich...the very meaning of suspension is provisional..."

Asked about American allegations that Iran supported "terrorist" groups such as Hizbollah, Dr. Rowhani said categorically: "Iran does not support any terrorist organisation. Iran itself is a victim of terrorism. Having said that, Iran believes that Hizbollah is not a terrorist organisation..."