Foreign office briefing: Commitment to Iran gas pipeline could fire US fury

Published: January 27, 2012
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Pakistan believes UN sanctions imposed on Iran do not apply to the project. PHOTO: PID/FILE

Pakistan believes UN sanctions imposed on Iran do not apply to the project. PHOTO: PID/FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan will not abandon the multibillion-dollar Iran gas pipeline project, despite the threat of sanctions from the United States if Islamabad went ahead with the plan.

“There is no change in our stance and we are working to complete the project by 2014. We believe that this project is beyond the scope of the relevant UN resolutions which we are obliged to comply with like all other member states,” said Abdul Basit, the foreign ministry spokesperson, on Thursday. The ‘scope’ he mentions refers to sanctions the UN imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.

For this reason, Washington is pushing Islamabad to give up the plan to import gas from neighbouring Iran. However, the government has so far publicly resisted the pressure, arguing the project is vital for the country’s energy needs.

Basit said that Pakistan has studied the US legislation about sanctions on Iran and it is clear they do not cover the Pak-Iran gas pipeline. The spokesman added that Pakistan had repeatedly said that Iran’s nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through negotiation and dialogue by the international community.

To a question on media reports about the Iranian President’s visit to Pakistan, he said: “No such bilateral visit between Pakistan and Iran has been finalised yet.”

When his attention was drawn to US special envoy Marc Grossman’s statement that the US is ready to engage with Pakistan anywhere and anytime, Basit said: “There is no disengagement. We are engaged through diplomatic channels.”

“The US Ambassador in Pakistan is very active and met the foreign minister the day before yesterday and our ambassador in Washington has been meeting senior officials. However, interaction at the political level will have to wait till the completion of our parliamentary process underway to rewrite terms of engagement with the US and Nato,” he said.

On President Obama’s recent address, in which he stated the US would continue to fight against al Qaeda and terrorists hiding in Afghanistan, Basit said: “We share the US objective of eliminating al Qaeda and militancy.”

Basit denied any knowledge of Pakistani foreign office staff working towards the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar. “I am not aware of any such engagement,” he said.

Regarding Afghanistan, Basit said the foreign minister would visit Kabul on the invitation of the Afghan side. “You will agree with me that bilateral and trilateral processes complement each other. We are not supplanting one with the other. We have always tried to build strong bilateral ties with Afghanistan. We have also pursued other tracks to promote peace in Afghanistan. These bilateral, trilateral or multilateral tracks are not mutually exclusive,” he said.

The spokesman, though, was quick to emphasise that peace in Afghanistan was Pakistan’s priority in the country. “We have always categorically said that we would be supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-sponsored reconciliation process. This continues to be our position. We will support any effort that leads to reconciliation and political stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

On India’s bid to buy a new nuclear submarine from Russia and whether it would start a new arms race in South Asia, he said: “Pakistan-Russia relations are significantly improving. We are trying to expand the scope of relations.”

“I think it is important that all countries in the region should be mindful of the fact that an arms race is in no one’s interest. This region is suffering from poverty and disease. It is important we focus on economic development. Millions of people are still living below the proverbial poverty line.” Basit added.

(Read: The Iranian connection)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Cautious
    Jan 27, 2012 - 5:23AM

    Basit said that Pakistan has studied
    the US legislation about sanctions on
    Iran and it is clear they do not cover
    the Pak-Iran gas pipeline.

    Might be simpler and more accurate to pick up the phone and ask the American’s rather than doing your own analysis – or maybe you already know what their response will be?

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  • sunny
    Jan 27, 2012 - 5:29AM

    Pakistan is a sovereign state and can do whatever is beneficial for its people. Though Pakistan must honour resolutions of the UN but as it has been mentioned that the Pak-Iran gas project does not fall within the ambit of the UN sanctions on Iran so there is no harm to keep the project going.
    However, it would be a tough decision and a litmus test for Pak-US relations. Let see how our govt face this issue.

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  • Balu
    Jan 27, 2012 - 5:38AM

    “Commitment to Iran gas pipeline could fire US fury”
    You shall forever be slaves…………………………

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  • Sahdu
    Jan 27, 2012 - 5:40AM

    ‘Pakistan has studied the US legislation about sanctions on Iran and it is clear they do not cover the Pak-Iran gas pipeline. ”
    India is doing oil business with Iran and rightfully so…………………. So should Pakistan.
    We need to take back S. Asia! We need not serve vested interests and unreliable suppliers & allies.

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  • John B
    Jan 27, 2012 - 7:13AM

    Building the pipeline and buying the gas via pipeline are two different things. No gas in the pipeline until the stand off between Iran-US is at ease, which likely may take five years or more. That is the reality.

    Did ET not report two days ago that SBP and Oil and gas ministry are not backing the gas purchase. Why there is a contradictory statement then?

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  • Ahsan J
    Jan 27, 2012 - 7:30AM

    Even India has snubbed US and says it will buy Oil from Iran. why is this pressure only on Pakistan not on China and India, who have insisted they’l still Buy Iranian stuff.

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  • Rt. Rev. Wrong
    Jan 27, 2012 - 7:35AM

    Was this briefing necessary?
    Diplomacy and discretion seems to have taken a very long Ex Pakistan leave.
    “Aa baill, mujhe maar.”
    Leave the foot in the mouth you already have insteated of trying a new one every day!

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  • plaintalk
    Jan 27, 2012 - 7:48AM

    Why doesn’t US accept us as its colony?

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  • Harry Stone
    Jan 27, 2012 - 9:27AM

    high risk position to take for PAK. PAK does not have a great number of friends in the US or the US Congress. Am fearing PAK understand just what sanctions mean. Think you hold a trump card in your nuclear weapons and land supply routes, think again if you follow this course of action.

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  • Rt. Rev. Wrong
    Jan 27, 2012 - 9:37AM

    “Tongue is enemy of the neck.”

    (An old adage.)

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  • Jan 27, 2012 - 9:47AM

    :there is no change in our stance and we are working to complete the the project by 2014………….” foreign ministry spokesperson said, – but has he taken NOC from our “friendly master US”? – one has apt to recall during Musharaf”s regime meeting was held on laying gas pipe line between Pakistan and India in Islamabad, Mr Mani Shankar leading India was asked by press reporter as to what would be response at the objection of US – Mr Shankir was bold enough to reply,”India and Pakistan are independent countries they dont require any one interference……………..”. Pakistan’s then Minister of Oil & Gas was Amannullah Jadoon remained silent, however, Mr. Shankir portifolio was changed in Indian Cabinet. This is history!

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  • kamran
    Jan 27, 2012 - 10:02AM

    The problem is not US fury, the problem is that if Iran is under UN sanctions, where will we finance the project from, The IMF, World Bank will not fund the project. The government is just playing the popularity card, by making the statements, but the project remains impractical. Moreso, if the project doesnt extend to India the project is not feasible. Can we really pay the Iranians for the gas, thats another question as the financial system will be under sanctions, and lets be true we cant even afford to pay.

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  • Waqas Butt
    Jan 27, 2012 - 10:32AM

    Mind your own business US. You have nothing to do in our matters.. Pakistan should build Iran Pakistan gas pipeline. US must be told to stay away. Enough is enough.

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  • Jan 27, 2012 - 10:59AM

    “I think it is important that all countries in the region should be mindful of the fact that an arms race is in no one’s interest. This region is suffering from poverty and disease. It is important we focus on economic development. Millions of people are still living below the proverbial poverty line.”

    Isn’t it cute that Pakistan thinks it is an equal of India. Something never change.

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  • Insomniac
    Jan 27, 2012 - 11:22AM

    Did some1 notice that Iranian forces killed 6 Pakistani citizens??? Any protest from any govt. official or even from Hafiz Saeed???

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  • Noor
    Jan 27, 2012 - 12:01PM

    Even Afghanistan is buying cheaper Oil from Iran, which has been barred to Pakistan by US.

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  • Ashraf P
    Jan 27, 2012 - 1:10PM

    @Sahdu:
    The days of comparing Pakistan with India are long gone.

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  • Sagar
    Jan 27, 2012 - 2:05PM

    @sunny:

    Sunny, problem is bankrupt countries which rely on others to sponsor their day to day expenses are not so Sovereign….he who pays the piper calls the tune.

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  • shazada zahid mahmoud loan
    Jan 27, 2012 - 3:09PM

    For the first time I agree with the government – Basit did put everything very nicely, to say the least. Pakistan need to follow UN resolutions, although the UN does not follow its own resolutions on Kashmir, and the American sanctions do not equate with our strategic and security needs. The Americans are trapped in their own vices and are trying to bring other states to their own agenda. We must not follow any ones interests except our own. Pakistan must steer clear from the European/American/Israel/Indian agendas – the interests do not coincide in fact they are contrary to our interests.

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  • Ejaz
    Jan 27, 2012 - 4:43PM

    I am pleasantly surprised that Pakistan hasn’t succumbed to the US pressure and vowed again that the Gas Pipeline project will be accomplished. This is not a matter of global politics; Pakistan needs gas and Iran is supplying this at a competitive price. In recent days; the govt of PPP despite its bad reputation, has done some bold decisions that will ultimately benefit the country on the whole. The American administration is playing a childish game i.e.; if I can’t play with the toy, I won’t let others to play with it either. I am hoping that the gas pipeline will be in working order by 2014 so that the manufacturing/textile industry is back on right track.

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  • Anonymous
    Jan 27, 2012 - 8:28PM

    Is U.N.O has any credabellity left after iraq war???? why third world dont make there own block.

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  • Harry Stone
    Jan 27, 2012 - 11:34PM

    @Waqas Butt:

    Well said. PAK must do what it feels is in its best interest. At the same time the US will do what it believes to be not only in its best interest but for a much wider scope of nations. Now you might not like this but that is going to be what happens. If the US pays a price for their choices so be it. PAK will also have a price to pay but it should be a price it is willing to pay because it made the choice.

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  • Cautious
    Jan 28, 2012 - 12:15AM

    Politician use the IP as a public distraction. It isn’t built – you have no money to build the pipeline – have no money to pay for the gas – have no ability to finance the project – and lets not forget this project is going to be built in Balochistan where the people are freezing because you can’t protect the current pipelines.

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  • Sandip
    Feb 9, 2012 - 9:16AM

    @Anonymous: Cuz you need money to pay the bills for any block you make.

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