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India asks Iran to honour $ 25 bn LNG deal
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 29
India and Iran today re-explored each other, but New Delhi failed to extract an assurance from Tehran for honouring the $ 25 billion LNG deal the two countries had signed in June 2005.

Visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari explained his countryís response to the P5 + 1 (five permanent countries of the UN Security Council plus Germany) package and emphasised that Iran was open to negotiations and willing to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He also made it clear that Iran will insist on its rights under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and on the issue being reverted to the IAEA.

Iran has reneged on the LNG deal in retaliation to the Indian vote against Tehran at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting last year on the issue of Iranian nuclear programme. Under the deal, Iran was to supply Liquefied Natural Gas to India for 25 years beginning 2006-2007.

Mr Safari, who holds the peculiar designation of Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia, Oceania and Commonwealth, held talks with Secretary (East) Rajiv Sikri and also met National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran. Iran has five Deputy Foreign Ministers. Mr Safari is a civil servant of the rank of Mr Sikri. The discussions covered bilateral and regional issues and focused in particular on the nuclear issue and cooperation in the energy sector. Dr. Safari explained Iranís response to the P5+1 package. He emphasised that Iran is open to negotiations and is willing to cooperate fully with IAEA but will insist on its rights under the NPT and on the issue being reverted to the IAEA.

On the nuclear standoff between Iran and the international community, Mr Sikri underlined that India did not want confrontation and destabilisation in the region and that India believed that as a signatory to the NPT Iran must enjoy all its rights and honour all its obligations. The Ministry of External Affairs said Mr Sikri emphasised that India wanted all issues to be resolved through dialogue and discussion rather than coercion.

The two sides also discussed several new schemes for modernisation and upgradation of Iranís Chabahar port. Chabahar is the closest and best access point of Iran to the Indian Ocean. The strategic significance of Chabahar for India is that through this port city, India can send its merchandise to Afghanistan while circumventing Pakistan which does not give land transit rights to India to accessing Afghanistan.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the gas pipeline project. This is despite the fact that the situation in Baluchistan after the killing of veteran Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 20 has left a big question mark on the project as the proposed pipeline would have to pass through long stretches of Baluchistan.

Mr Safari also discussed the proposed India visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. The visit is likely to take place next month.





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