Zardari to visit Iran for pipeline ceremony
Islamabad: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will visit Iran on Monday for the groundbreaking of a much delayed $7.5 billion bilateral gas pipeline, with the two countries deciding to ahead with the project despite threats of sanctions by the US.
This will be Zardari`s second visit to Iran since February 27 and officials said a consortium will start work on the Pakistani section of the pipeline on March 11 despite US warnings of possible sanctions.
"The President of Pakistan is visiting Iran to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline on March 11. Several heads of state have been invited (to the ceremony)," Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan told a weekly news briefing.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be held on the Iranian side, Khan said.
Zardari recently said Pakistan is determined to go ahead with the project because of the country?s growing energy needs.
He said Islamabad did not wish to "offend" anyone and was only acting in its national interests.
Asked about US opposition to the pipeline and whether Islamabad would be able to complete the project, Khan said: "We are not in a fix. We are very clear about this project. It is in our national interest to go ahead with this project. Pakistan, being an energy deficient country, is hugely suffering both economically and socially."
Khan said Pakistan was aware of American concerns "but we expect and hope that all our friends, including the US, would show more understanding on this issue".
The groundbreaking ceremony will mark the start of work on the 780-km section of the pipeline on the Pakistani side.
The pipeline on the Iranian side has been completed but Pakistan has run into repeated difficulties in getting financing for the project.
Khan said discussions were being held with Iran about setting up an oil refinery at Gwadar in Balochistan province.
The US State Department warned last week that the pipeline could attract sanctions.
"It`s in their (Pakistan`s) best interests to avoid any sanctionable activity, and we think that we provide and are providing?a better way to meet their energy needs," said spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
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