ISLAMABAD, Jan 23: Pakistan, Iran and India are likely to adopt a segmented approach on the construction of over $7 billion trans-Pakistan gas pipeline to ward off effects of possible US sanctions against Iran over nuclear issue, sources say.

Petroleum ministry officials are, however, not clear if such an approach could help parry similar UN sanctions.

The segmented approach means construction of the pipeline by the three countries within their respective territories. The 2,670-km pipeline would have about 1,115-km length in Iran, 705kms in Pakistan and 850kms in India.

They did not elaborate about the project’s feasibility in the wake of Iran’s stand off with the West on nuclear issue reached new heights and said their mandate was limited to only technical questions.

Secretary Petroleum Ahmad Waqar on the first day of the two-day working group meeting with Iran on Sunday told reporters that both sides discussed the project’s structure, feasibility, gas pricing and delivery points and pipeline routes.

Pakistan, sources said, had sent a draft gas pricing formula to Iran based on domestic gas pricing mechanism and the Iranian delegation had advanced its initial response to the formula.

Ahmad Waqar said talks would be held on Tuesday and the joint working group would come up with an agreement on dates to hold first trilateral meeting of Iran, Pakistan and India to finalise the Tripartite Framework Agreement on the pipeline project.

Commenting on the gas quality, the secretary said Iran would supply lean gas. The six-member Iranian delegation to the JWG meeting was headed by Iranian Deputy Minister Hadi Nejad Hosseinian while Secretary Petroleum and Natural Resources Ahmad Waqar led Pakistan’s side.

Mr Waqar said the next meeting on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline would be held in Ashkabad on Feb 13-15.

Officials said the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project was most likely to be initiated by mid-2007 and it would be completed in early 2010, provided it was not circumvented by political issues.

Pakistan and India on Dec 15-16, 2005 held talks at the joint working group level on questions of gas reserve certification and allocation for the pipeline, gas quantity and its subsequent build-up, gas quality, system configuration and project structure. Other matters of pipeline routing, delivery points, transportation tariff, transit fee, capital and operation costs and pipeline security were also discussed.

Sources said Petroleum Minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon would visit New Delhi by mid February to discuss with his Indian counterpart the progress on pipeline routing, transit fee and other technical issues.

Earlier, the deputy petroleum minister of Iran called on Pakistan’s petroleum and natural resources minister to discuss the project.

Mr Jadoon said Pakistan was pursuing the project and desired to implement one of the most viable projects as quickly as possible to meet the energy supply and demand gap after 2010.

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