Iran gas exports to Iraq delayed again by security concerns

When asked when exports might begin, he replied: "That depends on the security situation in Iraq"

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Iran's plans to export natural gas to Iraq have been pushed back indefinitely, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Saturday, blaming the poor security situation in Iraq for the delay.

The oil-producing neighbours signed an agreement in 2013 under which Iran would start exporting gas to Iraq to feed three power plants in Baghdad and Diyala. But two years later, exports have still not begun.

"The lack of security and presence of Daesh (Islamic State) is behind the delay of gas exports to Iraq," Ali-Reza Kameli, head of the National Iranian Gas Exports Company, was quoted as saying by Shana, a news agency linked to Iran's Oil Ministry.

When asked when exports might begin, he replied: "That depends on the security situation in Iraq."

In March Kameli said exports to Iraq could begin in May if security conditions improved. Iran first announced a delay in September last year, shortly after Islamic State militants took control of large swathes of Iraqi territory.

Iran has huge gas reserves and exports small quantities to Turkey, but production has failed to keep pace with high domestic consumption. Northern Iran relies heavily on gas imports from Turkmenistan, especially for heating in winter.

Tehran is in talks with six world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions, which could open up Iran's energy sector to foreign investment within a year.

Iraq, which like Iran is a major oil producer and member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has struggled to attract foreign investment to develop its gas industry and suffers severe power shortages.