Iran to open first gas pipeline into Armenia

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Armenian counterpart on Monday are to formally open the first stretch in Armenia of a natural gas pipeline. Ahmadinejad and Armenian President Robert Kocharian are to open the 40-kilometer section in the town of Meghri, just over the border from Iran. Under the first stage of the project, Iran is to deliver up to 400 million cubic meters of gas a year; when the pipeline is completed and extends to the capital, Yerevan, the volume could rise to 2.5 billion cubic meters a year. The project was launched in 2004 after more than a decade of negotiations. Russia, which supplies most of Armenia's gas, had objected to the project. Armenian officials said last year they were discussing the prospect of Russia's natural-gas monopoly Gazprom purchasing the Armenian section of the pipeline from Iran. Landlocked Armenia has developed its relations with Iran amid economic troubles caused the closing of its borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan in the wake of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenian and ethnic Armenian Karabakhi forces.