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Iran think-tank seeks gas exporters' union

STAVANGER, Norway, Aug 24 (Reuters) - An Iranian think tank said on Thursday it had proposed to the country's energy ministry the formation of an international gas exporters' cartel as a forum to share experience and plan strategy.

"We have proposed to the ministry an idea to form a union of gas exporting states... We want to learn from each other," Seyed Abdoljabad Alavi, director of international affairs at the Institute for International Energy Studies, told a group at the Offshore Northern Seas conference.

"But the reality is at least a year or two down the road," he added.

Iran is pinning its energy future on the estimated 800 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves it holds, which could last another 400 years at current capacity. In the Middle East, it has some 58 percent of total gas reserves, Alavi said.

He said plans to hold a July conference on the topic of a union with other interested parties - including Russia, which has about one-quarter of the world's reserves, and Turkmenistan and Algeria - had fallen through, but he hoped for a conference soon.

The goals of the group would be to make firm, transparent decisions in the face of rapid growth, make fair decisions regarind market share, share technical and trading knoweldge and help eliminate economic and tariff discrimination, he said.

But Alavi was quick to say the forum would be very different than the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Nations (OPEC), which has sometimes come under fire from consumer nations like the United States in times of high oil prices.

"For instance, we have an interest in exporting gas to India, while for Russia it would not make any sense," he said. "This is not like OPEC."

Iran has hopes of selling liquid natural gas (LNG) to China and India in addition to building a gas pipeline through Pakistan to India to fill the expected share growth in demand, Alavi said.

Planned gas exports to Turkey, which have stalled recently, should begin by September next year, an official at the National Iranian Oil Company said later.


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