Iran touts revival of stalled Pakistan pipeline
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Iran touts revival of stalled Pakistan pipeline

In Islamabad, Iranian FM says nuclear deal could breathe life back into massive gas project stymied by sanctions

Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz (R) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on August 13, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Aamir QURESHI)
Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz (R) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on August 13, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Aamir QURESHI)

The Iranian foreign minister said Thursday that he has discussed the possibility of resuming work on a stalled Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline during his current visit to Islamabad.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, who arrived in the Pakistani capital on Thursday, was speaking after meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other officials.

The gas pipeline project was designed to help Pakistan meet its energy needs, but Washington for years had opposed it because of concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Zarif said he hoped that a landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers last month could pave the way for the resumption of work on the project.

Iran has invested over $2 billion in the project, but Pakistan has yet to finish construction on its half of the pipeline.

The $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline was inaugurated with great fanfare in March 2013 — but the project immediately hit quicksand in the form of international sanctions on Tehran, which meant cash-strapped Pakistan struggled to raise the money to build its side.

The South Asian state is desperate for solutions to a long-running power crisis that has sapped economic growth and left its 200 million inhabitants fuming over incessant electricity cuts.

As part of an ambitious $46 billion economic corridor linking western China to the Middle East through Pakistan, Beijing recently started work on the section of the pipeline between Nawabshah and the port of Gwadar, close to the Iranian border.

Once this is completed, Pakistan will build the last 80 kilometers to Iran — before the 2018 general election, the government hopes — and it could in future extend the connection northeast to China, according to government sources.

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