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Iran 'not ready' to replace Russian gas supplies to EU – Rouhani

Iran 'not ready' to replace Russian gas supplies to EU – Rouhani
Iran is not ready to satisfy EU’s gas demand and replace Russia as a key supplier if sanctions against Tehran are lifted, said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. He added that the country lags behind in gas extraction.

"As you know, Iran has the largest deposits of gas," Rouhani said. "But we lag behind in gas output and so we first think about the domestic demands," said Rouhani in an interview with Rossiya 1 news channel.

Rouhani added that “from time to time” Iran has problems with gas during winter.

“We have many buyers, clients around us... All our neighbors to the east, west and south want to buy gas which we are yet to extract," he said.

According to the president, "now the conditions are not like those when everybody thinks that if Russia stops gas supplies [to the EU], Iran would provide [Europe] with the same [amount of] gas."

He added that the country’s production is “far from this stage."

In the meantime, Rouhani said that Iran is willing to cooperate with Russia in the gas sector.

The SPQ1 gas platform is seen on the southern edge of Iran's South Pars gas field in the Gulf, off Assalouyeh, 1,000 km (621 miles) south of Tehran.(Reuters / Caren Firouz)

"We have been expanding our efforts in recent years so that gas-exporting countries can co-operate," he said. "Competition should not be problematic. It should be healthy and should not bring profits only to buyers while damaging exporters."

Iran has the world’s largest proven gas reserves after Russia - 29.6 trillion cubic meters or about 15.8 percent of world's total reserves, according to Iran’s Petroleum Ministry.

In September, Reuters reported that the EU is quietly planning to import gas from Iran while two obstacles are still in the way - Tehran is currently under sanctions and lacks the necessary pipeline infrastructure.

READ MORE: US softens position on Iranian nuclear program

"Iran is far towards the top of our priorities for mid-term measures that will help reduce our reliance on Russian gas supplies," the source in European Commission told Reuters, "Iran's gas could come to Europe quite easily and politically there is a clear rapprochement between Tehran and the West."

Currently Russia remains the main supplier of gas to Europe, meeting about the third of its demand, worth $80 billion a year in total.

Iran has a project to build a 3,300km Persian (Iran–Europe) pipeline, aiming to transfer Iranian gas from Persian Gulf to European companies and markets. The pipeline will consist of two parts – Iranian line and European line which will cross Turkey, into Greece and Italy.

The international community and Iran are currently working at a permanent agreement aimed at ending a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program before a November 24 deadline.