A senior United States official blasted Friday a Turkish accord with Iran struck earlier this month for the opening up of Iranian gas sales to the country in July next year.
The special advisor to the US president on Caspian energy issues, John Wolf, said the US did "not believe that it is useful to have that kind of cooperation."
"We are in full agreement with Turkey on the importance of diversifying its sources of gas," Wolf told a press conference, asserting the US would aid Turkey in seeking "reliable suppliers from the Caspian."
Turkey and Iran agreed on August 2 that Iranian natural gas will start flowing to Turkey on July 30, 2001, following an 18-month hold-up caused by delays in pipeline construction.
Under the original agreement, signed in 1996, the gas was supposed to have started flowing at the end of 1999, but the two sides agreed on a postponement in January after Turkey failed to complete the construction of its section of the pipeline due to financial difficulties.
The United States has objected to the Turkish-Iranian deal because it rivals a major US-backed pipeline project to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Western markets via Turkey.
Washington has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the hostage-taking at the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, and has long accused Iran of supporting international terrorism.
Wolf insisted that construction of the rival pipeline was still on track for operation in 2004.
"I believe it is still possible to meet the dateline. But time is passing, it is important to move forward. It is going to be a tighter schedule," he said. "We should work faster."
He said he would be visiting Kazakhstan with US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson next week, and would return to Ankara on September 13.
To appease Washington, Ankara has repeatedly said the trans-Caspian pipeline is a priority, but maintains that it needs both projects to meet growing energy demands. – (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000