Iran claims progress on gas pipeline

TEHRAN, June 30 (UPI) -- More than 680 miles of a pipeline meant to carry natural gas from Iran to Pakistan is completed on the Iranian side of the border, Iran's state media claims.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency in Iran claimed Thursday official sources told Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani 683 miles of a natural gas pipeline were completed.

Tehran is pushing for a natural gas pipeline to stretch from the South Pars gas complex in the Persian Gulf through Pakistan and India. The project, however, is up against a Western-backed project from gas-rich Turkmenistan.

Tehran aims to deliver more than 740 million cubic feet of natural gas each year through the pipeline, which Iran says could start operating as early as 2013.

A delegation led by Iranian Deputy Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Bagheri visited with officials in New Delhi in mid-June to press for the project. The Iranian team, however, left empty-handed.

"The discussions on the IPI have been stalled," the Iranian delegation was quoted by Indian newspaper The Hindu as saying, "so Iran and Pakistan are bilaterally pushing the idea. The option for India to join is open."

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