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19 03 2007- Ahmadinejad opens Iranian gas pipeline to Armenia
Ahmadinejad opens Iranian gas pipeline to Armenia
March 19, 2007
AGARAK, Armenia -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Armenian counterpart inaugurated Monday a natural gas pipeline reducing energy-strapped
Armenia's reliance on Russian gas.

Ahmadinejad and Armenian President Robert Kocharian formally opened the pipeline in the Armenian town of Agarak, near the border with Iran.

"This is a[n] historic event that opens a new period in the relations of Iran
and Armenia," Kocharian said at the ceremony.

Surrounded by local villagers, the two presidents lit a symbolic torch at the ceremony, which was delayed for hours after heavy fog prevented Ahmadinejad's
helicopter from flying to the area. He eventually arrived by car.

"Our relations have deepened over the last 15 years and it is my intention to
develop them further," Ahmadinejad said during the ceremony.

He said that he hoped to increase cross-border cooperation in a range of fields, including electricity, energy, water, and telecoms.

Under a 20-year contract, Armenia is projected to receive 36 billion cubic meters of gas through the 150-kilometer (93-mile) pipeline, breaking Russian gas giant Gazprom's stranglehold on the ex-Soviet country's gas market.

Armenia is initially to receive up to 400 million cubic meters of gas per year through the pipeline, but that amount is expected to eventually increase to 2.3
billion cubic meters per year.

An agreement to build the $200-million pipeline was signed in 1992 but construction only began in 2004. Armenia funded its share of the pipeline with a $33-million loan from the Iranian Export and Development Bank.

Armenia will pay for the gas with electricity that it produces at a Soviet-era nuclear power plant.

Landlocked Armenia has sought closer links with Iran because of an economic blockade imposed by neighbors Azerbaijan and Turkey over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-year war ending with an uneasy ceasefire in 1994 over the majority ethnic-Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.


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