NATIONAL

Pak. signs MoU for pipeline project

ISLAMABAD Nov. 13. Pakistan has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian energy firm, Gazprom, for the construction of a $3.5 billion trans-Pakistan gas pipeline from Iran to India and to enhance oil and gas cooperation.

The English daily, Dawn, said that under the MoU, Pakistan had allowed Gazprom to carry out a pre-feasibility study, without surveying and mapping, of the proposed gas pipeline through Pakistan's naval territory.

The multi-billion Iran-India gas pipeline has been hanging fire for several years. The military regime headed by the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, is keen on the project as it sees enormous economic gains but India has serious reservations about the project.

New Delhi is not enthusiastic about the pipeline via the Pakistan land route. Technical committees have been set up by India and Iran to consider the prospects of the pipeline via the sea route.

The paper claimed that the MoU was the first of a series Gazprom had scheduled to sign with three parties — Pakistan, Iran and India— in the coming two months.

A report in the paper has said that Gazprom would sign a similar agreement with India when the

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, visits New Delhi next month and then with Iran in January next year.

The paper said that Gen. Musharraf had authorised his Petroleum Ministry to sign the MoU , provided Gazprom did not insist on surveying and mapping Pakistan's territory.

A six-member Russian delegation arrived here on Monday morning in a special plane and left for Moscow in the afternoon after signing of the MoU.

Gazprom and Pakistan have agreed under the MoU to increase cooperation in the oil and gas sector, including conversion of diesel vehicles to compressed natural gas and the privatisation process. The MoU would allow the Russian giant to launch a pre-feasibility study on the construction of the pipeline, including routes and economics, and negotiate with international financial institutions for financial support.

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