BAKU: Georgia seeks alternative gas supply from Iran

Azer Tag, Azerbaijan State Info Agency
July 29 2004

[July 29, 2004, 16:27:30]

Georgian officials say Tbilisi considers Iran as an alternative gas
supplier for Georgia, which currently depends only the Russian giants
GazProm and Itera for its gas supply, reported AzerTAj Tbilisi based

Officials say that the project is a long-term one and may be launched
as early as next year. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
discussed this issue during his visit to Iran in early July. `Iranian
gas can serve as an alternative source of gas supply for Georgia only
in cases of emergency situations and in the case that Russia reduces
or stops the gas supply

[to Georgia]. It can not be a permanent supplier for us, as Iranian
gas is more expensive,’ Teona Doliashvili, a spokesperson for the
Georgian Energy Ministry, told journalists.

There are two potential delivery routes of gas from Iran into Georgia
– one via Azerbaijan and another through Armenia.

In Soviet times Georgia received gas from Iran via Azerbaijan;
however the Azerbaijani pipeline needs rehabilitation, which,
according to the Georgian Energy Ministry, would cost around USD 2

Representatives from SakGazi, the gas distribution company in
Georgia, say that the joining of the Georgian gas system to the
Iranian-Armenian gas pipeline may prove cheaper.

`These considerations over a gas supply from Iran were launched some
three years ago, but discussions yielded no results, mainly because
of the lack of finances to rehabilitate the pipe. I think the
Armenian option will be cheaper,’ Maka Arakhamia, a spokesperson for
the SakGazi Company, told correspopndents.

This issue was discussed during the Georgian Foreign Minister Salome
Zourabichvili’s vist to Armenia last week. Zourabichvili said that
Georgia is interested in gas being delivered from Iran.

According to the Georgian Energy Ministry, Iran is also interested in
Georgia as a transit country to export its gas to Europe.