Despite mounting American pressure on Islamabad to abandon the project, Pakistan and Iran vowed to ‘intensify’ work on the multi-billion dollar gas pipeline.
The move to expedite work on the project came at the meeting of the Pakistan-Iran bilateral talks led by visiting Iranian International Affairs Vice President Ali Saeedlou and Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
“Work on the gas pipeline will be intensified in a bid to complete the project as soon as possible,” asserted Shaikh. The Iranian vice president also expressed his commitment to the project and vowed to complete the pending work at the earliest.
“Both sides reviewed the progress on the IP project and we are confident that it will be completed by the end of 2014,” Petroleum Secretary Ijaz Chaudhry told The Express Tribune.
However, the announcement is bound to draw a strong reaction from Washington, which has recently delivered its toughest warning yet to Pakistan regarding the plan to import gas from Iran.
Last week, a senior US diplomat conveyed to Islamabad that any attempt to go ahead with the gas pipeline would be considered as ‘furthering Iran’s nuclear programme’, sources said.
An US diplomat has also confirmed the development saying that Washington has serious reservations over the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas project.
“Pakistan will be in for serious trouble if it does not abandon the project,” the American diplomat warned, while talking to The Express Tribune.
“Any country, any bank or any financial institution which tries to work with Iran, will certainly be slapped with sanctions,” he maintained saying Washington was offering alternatives to Islamabad to meet its energy needs.
Islamabad and Tehran also discussed ways to enhance banking cooperation and strike a currency swap arrangement to promote bilateral trade.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2012.