Pak denies reports of Zardari delaying Iran visit
Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday denied reports that President Asif Ali Zardari had delayed a visit to Iran during which the two sides were expected to finalise a deal for a USD 7.5 billion gas pipeline, saying he would make the trip at a "mutually convenient date".
"We did not make any announcement regarding the visit of the President to Iran on (December 7)," Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan told a weekly news briefing.
"All I can say is that the visit of the President is expected, and we are working on that," he said.
Khan, who was responding to a question about the President had cancelled or delayed his trip, said Zardari was "expected to visit Iran on a mutually convenient date".
He further said the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project is in "our national interest and we are determined to pursue it".
Pakistani leaders, including Zardari, have said in recent months that the country would go ahead with the gas pipeline despite opposition from the US over Tehran's nuclear programme.
The USD 7.5-billion pipeline has run into repeated difficulties despite Iran's offer of a USD 500-million loan to help finance the project.
Officials had earlier said the visit had never been officially scheduled due to Zardari's recent engagements in Britain and France.
However, Iranian officials said the visit had been postponed at Pakistan's request and would happen "soon".
Responding to another question on Syria, Khan said had decided to withdraw its diplomatic staff, including the ambassador, because of the "deteriorating situation" there but had not closed its embassy.
"Once the security situation improves, they will go back," he said.
"Regarding our policy on Syria, we are concerned about the security situation and are also concerned about the killing of innocent people in Syria and hope that the issue will be resolved through peaceful means," he said.
Pakistan has called on all parties to resolve the issue "as urgently as possible through peaceful means".