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Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline defies US

Published: March 11, 2013 | 10:25 am
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President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are inaugurating a controversial gas pipeline linking the two neighbours.

The US has warned that the project could incur sanctions connected with Iran’s nuclear programme.

The long-delayed pipeline is seen in Pakistan as a way of alleviating the country’s chronic energy shortages.

The work on the Iranian side is almost complete. Monday marks the start of construction in Pakistan.

A total of 780km (485 miles) of pipeline is due to be built in the country over the next two years.

Talks on the project began in 1994 and the pipeline was initially intended to carry gas on to India, but Delhi withdrew from negotiations in 2009.

The US says the project would enable Iran to sell more of its gas, undermining efforts to step up pressure over Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Washington has also argued that there are other ways to ease Pakistan’s energy crisis.

But power shortages have become a major issue there, and the Pakistani government insists it will not bow to pressure.

A nationwide power cut last month was blamed on a technical fault in a plant in south-western Balochistan province, but it highlighted the energy challenges the country faces.

Blackouts are common in Pakistan because of chronic power shortages, and many areas are without electricity for several hours a day,

Last year Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the pipeline was “in Pakistan’s national interest” and would be completed “irrespective of any extraneous considerations”.

However BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge says Pakistan acknowledges that the pipeline route through the troubled province of Balochistan presents significant security challenges.

Separatist rebels fighting for autonomy and an increased share of mineral resources have frequently targeted pipelines in the gas-rich province.

BBC

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