Progress in Iran talks?

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

gas from Turkey and Turk­menistan.

While Amer­i­can spokesper­sons might talk about other ways to re­solve Pak­istan’s en­ergy cri­sis they know full well that be­yond the 900MW that will be added to Pak­istan’s na­tional grid by US-fi­nanced up­grad­ing and the re­pair of ex­ist­ing gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties there is lit­tle that can be done in the short or even medium term to find other sources to meet Pak­istan’s bur­geon­ing en­ergy needs.

Equally im­por­tant, for the next 24 months or more the US needs Pak­istani co­op­er­a­tion to ef­fect an or­derly with­drawal of for­eign troops and equip­ment from Afghanistan and to pro­mote the in­traAfghan di­a­logue that alone can en­sure a mod­icum of peace and sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan af­ter the Nato with­drawal. The last thing they want is the Salala type dis­rup­tion that would in­evitably fol­low any Amer­i­can ef­fort to im­pose sanc­tions on Pak­istan. In my mind, there are ques­tions about the Iran-Pak­istan pipe­line. Th­ese in­clude the award of the con­tract to an Ira­nian com­pany for the con­struc­tion of the pipe­line at the ex­or­bi­tant cost of $2 mil­lion per kilo­me­tre for a 42-inch pipe­line when the Ira­ni­ans have built a 56-inch pipe­line at less than $1m per kilo­me­tre and other pipe­lines in the re­gion have cost much less.

It in­cludes the ques­tion of the agree­ment reached on the pric­ing of the gas and whether we ne­go­ti­ated the best pos­si­ble deal. It also in­cludes the ques­tion of the de­gree to which the Ira­ni­ans have made a firm com­mit­ment to ac­cept pay­ment in the form of ex­ports of wheat, rice and other agri­cul­ture prod­ucts for the gas they will sup­ply and whether fool-proof ar­range­ments have been de­vised for this pur­pose.

The one ques­tion that does not arise is US sanc­tions. It is per­haps too much to ask that our ne­go­tia­tors put out a brief­ing pa­per ad­dress­ing th­ese is­sues and that our own pri­vate-sec­tor ex­perts on oil and gas of­fer their com­ments. Glob­ally, how­ever, it is not the Iran-Pak­istan pipe­line deal but the re­sump­tion of the nu­clear is­sue dis­cus­sions be­tween the Ira­ni­ans and the P-5 coun­tries in Al­maty late last month and the re­sults of this dis­cus­sion that have dom­i­nated the head­lines. In con­crete terms what hap­pened in Al­maty can be summed up as a mod­est pro­posal be­ing tabled by the P-5 to ease sanc­tions on Iran’s gold trade and on cer­tain bank­ing trans­ac­tions in ex­change for an Ira­nian shut­down of the cen­trifuges at Fordo, the sus­pen­sion of ura­nium en­rich­ment to 20 per cent at their other plants and the ex­port of the ex­ist­ing stock of 20 per cent en­riched ura­nium to an­other coun­try pre­sum­ably to be stored or to be con­verted into rods for use in med­i­cal re­ac­tors. The pro­posal was not ac­cepted but the Ira­nian ne­go­tia­tor termed some of the points raised by the P-5 “as more real­is­tic com­pared to what they said in the past”. The Ira­nian for­eign min­is­ter main­tained that “things are tak­ing a turn­ing point” and Pres­i­dent Ah­madine­jad talked in this con­text of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­ing bet­ter than con­fronta­tion.

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