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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Says Gazprom Can Join Gas Pipeline Project to India

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran suggested Monday that it would welcome any Gazprom involvement in a proposed $7 billion gas pipeline to India via Pakistan, with a senior official saying it would speed progress.

Gholamhossein Nozari, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Co. did not say whether Iran had been in contact with Gazprom on the issue or give details on what kind of participation he had in mind.

"Gazprom is a capable and big company and if it enters the peace pipeline, it will help with the progress and speed up the operation," he was quoted as saying by Iranian news agency ISNA, referring to the planned link from Iran to India.

Iran, India and Pakistan are expected to sign a key agreement on pricing in June that will help the pipeline project take off.

But an Indian official said earlier this month that New Delhi had yet to make a final decision on the pipeline from Iran via Pakistan, which has been opposed by the United States.

The pipeline project, which aims to feed the growing energy needs of the subcontinent, has made slow progress in part due to political tensions between India and Pakistan.

The United States, which accuses Tehran of developing a covert nuclear weapons program, has repeatedly sought to discourage India from the project. Russia is Iran's closest big-power ally and has helped to water down United Nations sanctions against Tehran.

Iran sits atop the world's second largest gas reserves after Russia. But sanctions, politics and construction delays have slowed its gas development and analysts say it is unlikely to become a major exporter for a decade.