AP: Defying a warning from Washington, Pakistan’s prime minister promised Tuesday to go ahead with a plan to import natural gas from Iran even if the U.S. levies additional sanctions against the Mideast country.
The Associated Press
By SEBASTIAN ABBOT
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Defying a warning from Washington, Pakistan’s prime minister promised Tuesday to go ahead with a plan to import natural gas from Iran even if the U.S. levies additional sanctions against the Mideast country.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s comments came two days after the U.S. special envoy to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, cautioned Pakistan not to “overcommit” itself to the deal because it could run afoul of new sanctions against Iran being finalized by Congress.
The deal has been a constant source of tension between the two countries, with Pakistan arguing that it is vital to its ability to cope with an energy crisis and the U.S. stressing that it would undercut international pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
Gilani said Pakistan would reconsider the deal if it violated U.N. sanctions, but the country was “not bound to follow” unilateral U.S. measures. He said media reports that quoted him as saying that Pakistan would heed Holbrooke’s warning were incorrect.
The U.N. has levied four sets of sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. The latest set of U.N. sanctions was approved earlier this month.
The U.S. has also applied a number of unilateral sanctions against Iran, and Congress is currently finalizing a new set largely aimed at the country’s petroleum industry. Both houses have passed versions of the sanctions and are working to reconcile their differences.
Pakistan and Iran finalized the gas deal earlier this month. Under the contract, Iran will export 760 million cubic feet (21.5 million cubic meters) of gas per day to Pakistan through a new pipeline beginning in 2014. The construction of the pipeline is estimated to cost some $7 billion.
While U.S. officials have expressed opposition to the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline deal, the issue is complicated by Washington’s reliance on Pakistan’s cooperation to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban.
The U.S. also acknowledges that Pakistan faces a severe energy crisis and has made aid to the energy sector one of its top development priorities. Electricity shortages in Pakistan cause rolling blackouts that affect businesses and intensify suffering during the hot summer months.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this report.