Pakistan, Iran clear hurdles in IPI gas line

Pakistan, Iran clear hurdles in IPI gas line
Ahmadinejad meets Musharraf, Gilani; Tehran offers 1,100MW electricity to Islamabad
By Mariana Baabar, The News, April 29, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Monday cleared all hurdles over the proposed $7.5 billion IPI gas pipeline and announced that an agreement would be signed soon in Tehran. The foreign ministers of both the countries are to meet soon to fix the date for signing the deal.

A go-ahead to the long-awaited project was given at a meeting between the visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and President Pervez Musharraf here on Monday. Later, Ahmadinejad also called on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who hosted a lunch in his honour. Both Musharraf and Ahmadinejad held a one-on-one meeting before the delegation level talks.

Despite stiff opposition from the United States which discouraged Pakistan from finalising the gas deal with Iran, Pakistan views the project as economical to meet its growing energy demands. Iran has also offered supply of 1,100MW of electricity to overcome Pakistan’s energy shortfall.

It was also agreed that mechanisms of the Joint Investment Company (JIC) and the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) to meet the target of $1 billion annual trade would be worked out soon.

Ahmadinejad is the first head of state of a foreign country to visit Pakistan after the formation of the PDA government and the first Iranian president to visit Pakistan in the last six years. He made a brief four-hour stopover on his way to Sri Lanka.

According to the foreign office spokesman, both the presidents decided that the agreement on the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project, termed the friendship pipeline, would be signed soon.

Ahmadinejad welcomed the proposal for inclusion of China in the project. In his meeting with the prime minister, it was once again emphasised that signing of the IPI gas pipeline agreement would add a new dimension to the cooperation between Pakistan and Iran in the energy sector.

The talks between President Pervez Musharraf and President Ahmadinejad covered a wide-range of subjects, including bilateral matters of mutual interest and regional and global issues of importance.

The two presidents agreed that the bonds of history, faith, culture and geography that bind the two countries should help in optimising bilateral, economic, trade and commercial relations.

Among the regional subjects, the situation in Afghanistan figured prominently. “There was a complete convergence of views between the two presidents that peace and security in Afghanistan was not only important for Pakistan and Iran but also for the progress of the entire region. They also emphasised the need for more dialogue and creation of an enabling environment to counter terrorism more effectively. They were of the view that trilateral — Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran — foreign ministers dialogue was very helpful,” said the spokesman in a statement.

The situation in the Middle East and Iraq also came under discussion. The two sides believed that the situation in Iraq could be resolved through peaceful dialogue by all the stakeholders. In the context of Pak-India relations, Iran expressed its support for the Indo-Pak composite dialogue and hoped it would lead to peaceful resolution of the issues between Pakistan and India.

In the meeting with Prime Minister Gilani, President Ahmadinejad offered his condolences on the martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. The prime minister thanked him and the people of Iran for the support and sympathy they had extended to the people of Pakistan during their national tragedy.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi told reporters that the talks were positive and covered all aspects of relationship between the two countries. “The two leaders said the Iran-Pakistan-India (gas pipeline) project will promote peace and friendship,” Qureshi said, adding the foreign ministers of Iran and Pakistan had been asked to fix a mutually convenient date for signing the bilateral agreement on the pipeline.

Qureshi said Musharraf and Ahmadinejad expressed satisfaction over the resolution of all issues that had delayed a final agreement on the pipeline and hoped that the project will help meet the future energy needs of Pakistan.

He said Iran also responded positively to a Pakistani proposal for a gas pipeline passing through its territory along the Karakoram highway to provide gas to China to help meet its growing industrial needs.

Asked about Pakistan’s stance on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, Qureshi said: “We support Iran’s use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines.”

The Iranian delegation also included Foreign Minister Monouchehr Mottaki, Commerce Minister Mir Kazemi, Vice President Esfandyar Rahim Mashai’e, Sr Advisor to President Mojtaba Hashemi and Ambassador Mashallah Shakeri. Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmud Qureshi, Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (minister-in-waiting) and other senior officials also attended the meeting.

Also See:
Iran, Pakistan 'in pipeline deal' - BBC
Editorial: Iran looks eastward - Daily Times

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