UPDATE 1-Cold halts Iran gas exports to Turkey -minister

Fri Feb 8, 2008 5:52pm GMT

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ANKARA Feb 8 (Reuters) - Cold weather has again forced Iran to stop pumping natural gas to Turkey, Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said on Friday.

"Bad weather conditions have had their effect. The flow of Iranian natural gas dropped and halted yesterday," Guler told reporters at a reception at the Iranian embassy.

"Our friends are holding talks to try to solve the problem."

A previous stoppage, also prompted by harsh weather, lasted three weeks before Iran finally resumed its gas exports to Turkey on Jan. 27. Iranian officials blamed that disruption on increased domestic demand sparked by the cold weather.

"Our cooperation is continuing, we are trying to solve the technical problems. We need some time, there is mutual understanding," an Iranian embassy official said in Ankara.

Botas, Turkey's state gas pipeline company, said Iran had not given any explanation for the latest disruption. It said Turkey was currently experiencing no problems in meeting demand, which it put at around 125 million cubic metres a day.

"Iran has not explained why they stopped pumping gas or when the supplies might resume," a senior Botas official said.

Gas is continuing to flow via a newly opened pipeline to Greece, the official added. Greece was hit in a domino effect last month when Iran stopped pumping gas to Turkey.

"If we need extra gas we will again turn to the Russians," the Botas official said.

Russia and Iran account respectively for about 70 percent and 20 percent of Turkey's natural gas needs. Russia raised its supplies last month to meet Turkey's shortfall. (Reporting by Evren Mesci and Orhan Coskun, writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Anthony Barker)