NEW DELHI - The United States has reminded India about its concerns over Iran, as New Delhi prepares for talks on a $4 billion pipeline to bring Iranian natural gas to South Asia, a newspaper said on Thursday.
U.S. ambassador to New Delhi David Mulford told the Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar that Washington faced serious difficulties with Iran because of its nuclear programme, and there appeared no immediate solution, the Indian Express said.
"Washington has officially conveyed to New Delhi that the Bush administration continues to have serious concerns on Tehran and can't foresee how events there will shape up," it said.
The newspaper said it was the first time the United States had formally conveyed its reservations about the long-running proposal to build the pipeline that will go through Pakistan.
There was no immediate comment from either the U.S. embassy or the Indian government on the newspaper report.
U.S. President Geroge W. Bush accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and has called it part of an "axis of evil". Tehran insists its nuclear programme is intended solely to generate electricity.
The newspaper said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will likely reiterate her concerns over Iran to Indian and Pakistan leaders during her first tour of the region next week.
The ambitious pipeline project was stalled for years, mainly because of differences between India and Pakistan, and concern in New Delhi that its energy supplies could be held hostage to Islamabad if tensions rose.
But the nuclear rivals have revived talks over the pipeline since they began a cautious peace process more than a year ago.
Aiyar said on Wednesday that he planned to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart on the gas pipeline that will help meet India's huge energy demand.
India barely produces half the gas it needs and imports 70 percent of its crude oil requirements. Pakistan, which has been quite keen on the project, will earn millions of dollars in transit fees from the "peace pipeline."
But the Indian Express said Washington had told Islamabad it did not favour the plan to import gas from Iran, which held the world's second-biggest proven gas reserves, after Russia at the end of 2003.