The pipeline is expected to run through Pakistan.

Iran's Energy Minister Bijan Namdar Zanghaneh and his Indian counterpart Mani Shankar Aiyar also discussed on Saturday a deal for Tehran to deliver gas to India and plans for an Indian role in developing oil and gas fields in Iran, news agencies reported.

"Negotiations are progressing well on developing oil cooperation between the two countries," Zanganeh was quoted as saying by the Iranian Student's News Agency.

Shortly concluded

"The two ministers voiced hope that these negotiations [on the Iran-India pipeline] will be finalised in the near future," the agency added.

The 2600-km overland gas pipeline project with an estimated cost of about $4.5 billion has been strongly opposed by the United States because of its concern about Tehran's nuclear programme.

"Negotiations are progressing well on developing oil cooperation between the two countries"

Bijan Namdar Zanghaneh,
Iran energy minister 

Negotiations for the pipeline began in 1994, but made little headway because of tensions between Pakistan and India, which have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947 from Britain.

But since January 2004, the two countries have been engaged in a peace process, and relations appear to be at their best in years.

Offshore fields

The pipeline will supply gas from the massive South Pars offshore fields in the Gulf.

The two countries have also finalised an agreement for Iran to deliver 5 million tonnes of gas to India over 25 years, and are in talks for the supply of another 2.5 million tonnes, according to the Shana news agency which is linked to the Oil Ministry.

The ministers also held talks on India taking a 20% stake in the development of the Yadavaran oilfield in the southwestern province of Khouzistan, Shana reported.

Aiyar voiced interest in India taking part in one or two phases of the South Pars field and the onshore Jofeir field, the agency said.