- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

BRUSSELS, Belgium

Iran said Tuesday it is ready to open talks with the European Union to forge closer energy ties.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari said his country could act as a transit country or sell its own natural gas to European countries.

“We are ready to contribute, we are ready for a dialogue,” Safari told lawmakers at the European Parliament.

EU nations are seeking out alternative gas suppliers to lessen their dependence on Russian gas in wake of Moscow’s gas dispute with Ukraine, which left many EU countries without gas for most of January.

Safari, who was in Brussels for two days of talks with EU officials and lawmakers, said Iran is “a good resource for energy, whether for gas or oil.”

EU nations are keen to seek new regional partners to lessen the country’s heavy dependence on Russian gas. One option being promoted at EU headquarters is the construction of the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, which would bypass Ukraine and Russia and carry Caspian gas through Turkey to Europe.

EU officials have also suggested that gas from Northern Africa, Iraq and Iran could also be sent through such a pipeline to Europe. EU-Iran ties are currently frozen over Tehran’s nuclear program, which the EU fears is being used to build atomic weapons

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