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publish date : 31 Saturday March 2012      21:2

Pakistan Eying Russian Finance for Iran Gas Pipeline

TEHRAN (FNA)- Pakistan said it would seek Russian funding for the multi-billion dollar pipeline which is due to bring Iran's rich gas reserves to the energy hungry South Asian nation.

Pakistan is looking at Russia to sponsor the multi-billion gas-pipeline project with Iran. A delegation from Pakistan is to visit Moscow next week to discuss a role for Gazprom in the natural gas pipeline planned from Iran's offshore South Pars gas field.

"A Pakistan technical delegation will visit Moscow early next month to have discussions with relevant Russian authorities and companies, including the Gazprom," said Pakistani Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abdul Basit at a press briefing.

The Pakistan team would hold talks with Russian gas giant Gazprom and other companies and officials, Basit said.

The quest for alternative sources of funds began when the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) failed to sign a consortium to finance Pakistan's $1.5 billion share of the project.

A petroleum ministry official confirmed that Russia was a possible source of funding, given that there had been no formal response from the ICBC as yet.

Pakistan is facing a massive energy crisis at the present moment and Iran has offered help to the neighboring country in shape of electricity and gas. The United States is trying to pressurize Pakistan into giving up the deal with Iran. However, realizing the severity of the energy crisis, Pakistan has made it clear that it wants to proceed with the venture.

Washington backs a rival project that would stretch from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Security concerns in Afghanistan, however, challenge that project's development.

Meantime, a European diplomat said joining a natural gas pipeline planned from Iran to Pakistan would be "advantageous" to the Russians.

"This project is advantageous to Moscow since its realization would carry Iranian gas toward South Asian markets so that in the near future it would not compete with Russian gas to Europe," a European diplomat told Pakistan's newspaper the Nation on the condition of anonymity.

Iran has started work on its section of the pipeline. Pakistan expects by June to have a route survey completed in its territory.

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