'No change' in Pak position on gas pipeline project with Iran

Pakistan today said there was "no change or shift" in its position regarding a troubled gas pipeline project with Iran, which is expected to be completed in 2014 despite pressure from the US.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit made the remarks at a weekly news briefing while responding to questions on the pipeline project and reports that the US could impose sanctions on any bank that provides funding for the venture.

"We are looking forward to the completion of the project by 2014. This project is important for us to meet our growing energy requirements. We are, therefore, committed to the project," Basit said.

In response to another question, Basit said Russia was interested in several energy projects in Pakistan and Islamabad is hopeful there would be "some progress in the months ahead".

Russia has shown interest in the Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and "different options are being considered" for this project, he said.

"Nothing is yet final. Russia is an important country in our common region. They have resources for investing in such projects. We would welcome Russia to participate in this project," he said.

Basit said a trilateral summit of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan will be held in Islamabad during February 16-17.

This trilateral mechanism is important for discussing issues such as cooperation in counter-terrorism, border management and trans-national organised crime, including drug and human trafficking, he added.

Answering another query, Basit said Pakistan wants all issues related to Iran's nuclear programme to be resolved peacefully "because we cannot afford another conflict in our region".

He said, "We would always advise restraint and resolution of issues through dialogue."
Asked about the contacts between American officials and the Afghan Taliban in Qatar, Basit said Pakistan has "been kept informed by the US through diplomatic channels about the initial contacts with the Taliban".

He did not give details.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's recent visit to Qatar was not linked to efforts to create rapprochement between the US and the Taliban, Basit said.

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