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Iranian gas pipeline to embattled ally Syria set to move forward following Iraqi approval

Iraq has approved the construction of a natural gas pipeline across its territory that will connect Iran to key ally Syria. The move likely to strengthen Tehran's influence over its neighbors.

The Iraqi Cabinet said in a statement Tuesday evening that it has instructed the country's oil minister to sign a framework agreement for the $10 billion project, allowing the pipeline to move ahead.

The project is designed to supply gas from the giant South Pars field to Syria as well as other export markets.

Iran signed a preliminary deal to build the 1,500-kilometer (750-mile) pipeline in July 2011 as Syrian rebels were stepping up their fight to topple President Bashar Assad. Work on the project started in November.

After Russia, Iran has the world's second-largest natural gas reserves.