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Iran, Pakistan inaugurate IP gas pipeline

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) shakes hands with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari during a ceremony marking the start of work on the 780-kilometre (485-mile) pipeline from Iran to Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) shakes hands with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari during a ceremony marking the start of work on the 780-kilometre (485-mile) pipeline from Iran to Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari have officially inaugurated the final construction phase of the multi-billion-dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

Ahmadinejad and Zardari attended the ceremony on the Iran-Pakistan border on Monday.

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi and Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also attended the ceremony, which marks the start of the construction of the pipeline, intended to transfer natural gas from Iran to energy-hungry Pakistan.

The United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Mohammad Bin Dha’en Al Hameli also attended the ceremony.

During a short meeting prior to the inaugural ceremony of the pipeline, Ahmadinejad and Zardari said the project would promote peace, security and progress in the Iranian, Pakistani as well as other regional nations.

The project will help enhance economic, political and security ties between Tehran and Islamabad, the two leaders stressed.

They also underlined the need for tapping into all of the existing capacities between Iran and Pakistan to promote the progress and welfare of the two countries.

On March 2, Zardari reiterated that Islamabad would not stop the pipeline project at any cost.

The Pakistani president stressed that his government would continue to pursue the construction of the gas pipeline despite threats and pressure from the US.

Washington has repeatedly voiced its discontent with the joint project, but Pakistan has dismissed rumors that it might pull out of the project amid pressures by the United States.

Pakistan faces a crushing energy crisis, which has caused difficulties in financing the pipeline that stretches from the border between the two countries to Nawabshah region in Pakistan.

The 1,600-kilometer pipeline, projected to cost USD 1.2-1.5 billion, would enable the export of 21.5 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan on a daily basis.

Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its soil.

Tehran-based Tadbir Energy Development Group will reportedly undertake all engineering procurement and construction work for the first segment of the project, which starts from the Iran-Pakistan border and costs around USD 250 million.

The Iranian firm will also carry out the second segment of the project, and extend the financing later to USD 500 million.

The remaining amount is expected to be generated through Pakistan’s Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC).

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CHAHBAHAR: President Asif Ali Zardari along with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad inaugurated the multi-billion dollar Pak-Iran gas pipeline in Chahbahar on Monday, reported Express News. 

The contentious gas pipeline was inaugurated by Zardari as he pulled the rope to reveal the foundation-laying plaque on the Pak-Iran border for the 1,600 kilometre long pipeline.

A 300-member strong Pakistani delegation led by President Zardari and comprising the country’s foreign minister, petroleum minister and National Assembly speaker and a number of prominent politicians attended the historic ceremony.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said several heads of states had also been invited at the inauguration — an event that will see the two neighbouring states sign a crucial yet controversial mega project aimed at easing Pakistan’s energy crisis. However, he refused to give any further details.

One official pointed out that the high-powered inauguration clearly indicated that Pakistan would pursue the project at all costs.

Iran has completed 900 km (560 miles) of pipeline on its side of the border and Iranian contractors will also construct the pipeline in Pakistan, Iran’s national broadcasting network IRIB reported.

Tehran has agreed to lend Islamabad $500 million, or a third of the estimated $1.5 billion cost of the 750 km Pakistani section of the pipeline, Fars news agency reported.

The two sides hope the pipeline will be complete in time to start delivery of 21.5 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan by December 2014.

The US has issued warnings to invoke economic sanctions already in place against Iran if Pakistan went ahead with its plans to import natural gas from the Islamic republic.

The United States has steadfastly opposed Pakistani and Indian involvement, saying the project could violate sanctions imposed on Iran over nuclear activities that Washington suspects are aimed at developing a weapons capability. Iran denies this.

India quit the project in 2009, citing costs and security issues, a year after it signed a nuclear deal with Washington.

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