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Qatar Unaware of Saudi Objection to Gas Project

Source: Reuters 7/13/2006, Location: Middle East

Qatar's oil minister said that Doha had not received any Saudi objection to a $3.5 billion project to carry Qatari gas to the United Arab Emirates and said construction of the pipeline was on schedule.

"I have not received anything. The project is on schedule so far," Abdullah al-Attiyah told reporters.

A source close to the situation said that Riyadh told France's Total and U.S. Occidental Petroleum, minority partners in the Dolphin Energy project, that it had reservations about the route of the pipeline.

Dolphin Energy has said it did not receive any Saudi objection and that the line runs only within Qatari and UAE territory. It said the line will be completed in a few weeks.

Analysts said Riyadh raised doubts about the project as a political manoeuvere in a border dispute with the UAE, and that they did not expect the issue to escalate into a major confrontation.

A Saudi official told Reuters he was confident a solution would be reached.

Pipeline-owner Dolphin Energy is owned 51 percent by state-run Mubadala Development Co and 24.5 percent each by Total and Occidental. Analysts say it was unlikely that the firms would have allowed the pipeline to proceed without guarantees.

The Dolphin project aims to take up to 3.5 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas to the UAE and then later to Oman.

Saudi Arabia has strained ties with Qatar and objected to another gas pipeline from Qatar to Kuwait. Attiyah has said the project was scrapped for that reason.

All three Gulf Arab states are OPEC oil producers. Qatar has the world's third-largest natural gas reserves and aims to raise gas output to 25 billion cubic feet per day by 2011.

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