Greece and Iran plan to hold talks on the possibility of extending the natural gas pipeline connecting Turkey and Iran to Greece as well, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday. «We have agreed to start talks on cooperation in this sector,» he told reporters after meeting with Iran’s petroleum minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh. He said the idea was to construct a new and bigger pipeline linking the Turkish cities of Ankara and Istanbul to the Evros region in northeastern Greece. The conduit would then be connected to the Greek network. Like the majority of countries in Europe, Greece is giving great emphasis to natural gas, which is considered more economical and environmentally friendly than oil. It currently imports natural gas from Russia and limited quantities of liquefied gas from Algeria but wants to diversify its sources of supply. Zangeneh said the Greek government has shown its willingness to help Iran break into the European market. «Our objective is not just the Greek market. Our objective is to export natural gas to Europe,» he stressed. Iran recently started exporting gas to Turkey and has said it wants to use the neighboring country as a distribution point for exports to Greece and Europe. The country has confirmed natural gas reserves of 26.6 trillion cubic meters, equivalent to 17 percent of global reserves, and second only to Russia. Zangeneh said Iranian gas can be transported either in its natural form or in liquid form. He called on Greek companies to take advantage of opportunities in the Iranian natural gas industry, noting that Iranian businesses «are willing to cooperate with Greek companies.» The Iranian minister said US-imposed sanctions against Iran have not deterred European companies from investing in the country’s energy sector. Tsochadzopoulos said he has accepted Zangeneh’s invitation to visit Iran for further talks on the gas pipeline project.The Greek gas market is scheduled to be deregulated in 2006. Interamerican plans to launch new products and expand its distribution network, and expects to realize other cooperative efforts with the parent group elsewhere in Europe.