Zardari dismisses US opposition to Iran-Pak pipeline project

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No power in the world can halt the 7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, President Asif Ali Zardari has said, dismissing mounting US opposition to the venture that will be formally inaugurated on March 11.

“Nobody has the power to halt this project,” Zardari said during an interaction with senior editors and TV anchors at his private residence in Lahore late last night.

Pakistan, he said, is a sovereign and independent country that it acting in its national interests by going ahead with the pipeline. The pipeline will be formally inaugurated on March 11 in Iranian city of Chahbahar and dignitaries from regional countries have been invited to the event, Zardari said.

Asked about US opposition to the project, Zardari said Pakistan can make decisions independently and sign an agreement with any country to tackle its energy crisis. He expressed the hope that with time, critics of the project will appreciate Pakistan’s growing energy needs and the requirement of the pipeline.

“Pakistan does not want confrontation with anyone and firmly believes that negotiations and dialogue are the best tools to create greater understanding of issues,” he said.

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. Zardari said he intended to take up the issue of the pipeline with the US administration. During his recent visit to Tehren, he met his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenaei and both sides agreed on the need to expeditiously complete all mega projects, including the gas pipeline.

The President also defended Pakistan’s decision to hand over the operation of the Gwadar deep sea port to China and dismissed India’s concerns in this regard.

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