Rejecting Saudi Arabia’s request against participating in an Iranian-sponsored International Conference on Global Fight against Terrorism, Pakistan will attend the meeting in Tehran on June 25, an official told The Express Tribune.
President Asif Ali Zardari along with Minister for Oil and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar will represent Pakistan in the meeting that will continue for two days.
Many Western, Middle Eastern and most Central Asian countries have decided to stay away from the conference. The UN and European Union sanctions against Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions have kept EU countries from attending as well.
Neighbouring Middle Eastern states, led by Saudi Arabia, have decided to ignore the Iranian invitation as a mark of their resentment over Tehran’s alleged support to the “peoples uprising” in Bahrain and other Arab countries.
Before the inauguration of the conference, Zardari will hold talks with his Iranian counterpart over the $7.6 billion Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project that will provide a desperately needed supply of energy to Pakistan from 2014 .Discussions will also cover another proposal of electricity supply to Pakistan from Iran.
The talks between the two leaders over the gas project, strongly opposed by the United States, may culminate in a decisive step for the execution of the already delayed project. Iran has already completed the construction of 1,000 kilometers of the pipeline out of the 1,100 kilometers portion on Iranian soil.
Iran has also proposed that an electricity transmission network be built next to the pipeline, connecting the electricity grid of Iran with that of Pakistan. Additionally, Iran has offered to sell 1,000 megawatts hours of electricity to Pakistan at a subsidised rate.
Saudis conveyed their opposition to the Iranian conference to Islamabad through Pakistan’s charge d’affaires in Riyadh last month. The Pakistani envoy was told that Riyadh also planned to host an international conference against terrorism.
Saudi Arabia, while asking Pakistan not to attend, had maintained that hosting the conference was an attempt by Tehran to come out of world isolation.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Republic of Benin, Bolivia, Sudan and a few other countries have also accepted the invitation by the Iranian president.
The main purpose of the conference is to provide an opportunity for exchanging views on the reasons for the growth in terrorist activities, and challenges and obstacles to the fight against terrorism.
Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Ahmed Vahidi said last month that western countries were the source of spreading terrorism worldwide, an IRNA report said. The minister added that western states were violating the territorial integrity of other countries through occupying and destroying them under the pretext of fighting against terrorism. He made these remarks during his meeting with the president of Mauritania.
Earlier in May, Iran hosted the International Conference on the Global Alliance against terrorism for peace in Tehran. The event, which brought together over 100 foreigners and 300 local experts, focused on efforts aimed at uprooting terrorism. (edited by Zehra Abid)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2011.