Pakistan and India a pipeline deal by December

Petroleum ministry officials from rival neighbors Pakistan and India agreed Friday to complete a deal on a pipeline to transport natural gas from Iran by December, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry statement said.

The proposed US$4 billion (Ђ3.35 billion) project would move Iranian gas to India through Pakistani territory.

India and Pakistan have tentatively agreed to begin building the 2,800-kilometer (1,750-mile) pipeline late next year.

Pakistan, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has vowed to proceed with the pipeline despite Washington's opposition to the project due to Iran's involvement and U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear program

Wrapping up two days of talks in Islamabad, India's petroleum secretary Sushil Chandra Tripathy talked with his Pakistani counterpart Ahmad Waqar about the project's technical, financial and other aspects, the Foreign Ministry statement said.

It said the two sides will meet in New Delhi in November for further discussions.

Iran proposed the pipeline in 1996, but the project was long delayed, mainly because of India's concerns over the pipeline's security in Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have a history of bitter relations centered on their conflicting claims to the Himalayan territory of Kashmir. They have fought two wars over Kashmirm, divided between them but claimed in entirety by both, since their independence from Britain in 1947.

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