Pak vows to pursue energy projects with Iran

Islamabad: Pakistan`s top leadership on Wednesday underlined the country`s commitment to pursue energy projects with Iran, including a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline, despite growing pressure from the US to abandon such ventures.

"We have bilateral relations with Iran and we are a sovereign country. We will do whatever is in the interests of our country. There is no perception of a threat," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said.

He made the remarks while responding to a question about US threats to energy projects with Iran, including the pipeline and ventures to import electricity, on "Prime Minister Online", a monthly TV show in which he interacts with the public.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told a news conference that Pakistan will pursue its cooperation with Iran, including the gas pipeline project. "This is a national interest priority for Pakistan," she said.

"All our friends are encouraged to understand the real energy crisis in Pakistan. We cannot afford to be selective about where we receive energy supplies from. Indeed it is in our national interest to pursue energy from wherever it comes," she said.

Khar said important projects like the gas pipeline and import of electricity from Iran "will be pursued and completed irrespective of any extraneous considerations".

Pakistan`s bilateral relations and cooperation are not "contingent on the views and policies of any third country", she added.

Asked about the possible impact of sanctions by Western powers on the gas pipeline, Khar said, "We will cross the bridge when it comes. We are hoping that no unilateral sanctions will eventually be implemented and the world will find a way around (this problem) through negotiations."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Pakistan of "damaging consequences" over the gas pipeline with Iran, saying Islamabad could face sanctions if it went ahead with the ambitious project.

"We have been very clear in pointing out the consequences of building this pipeline," Clinton told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing in Washington on Wednesday.

She warned that sanctions could be triggered if the pipeline is constructed either as an Iranian project or a joint project with Islamabad.

Referring to a recent trilateral summit between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, Khar said the three neighbours had agreed on developing a roadmap of cooperation in energy, connectivity and trade.

Both Gilani and Khar said Pakistan would support all Afghan-led and Afghan-owned efforts aimed at peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan.

They also noted that Pakistan had appealed to the Taliban to join the peace process at the request of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Khar said the international community and countries in the region should uphold Afghanistan sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and show respect for the principles of non-interference and non-intervention in Afghanistan`s internal affairs.

Gilani said Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US should work for a political solution as a "military solution is not permanent". The two leaders also said Pakistan-US relations would be shaped by the recommendations that emerge from a parliamentary review.

A joint session of the two houses of parliament will be held in the second week of March to give final shape to future ties with the US, Khar said.