Pakistan and Iran inaugurate gas pipeline

Pipeline designed to help Pakistan overcome growing energy needs

NEWS, Projects, Iran, Pakistan, Pipeline

Pakistan and Iran have inaugurated a gas pipeline that will bring natural gas into Pakistan from Iran despite American opposition.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke alongside his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, in Iran near the Pakistani border during a ceremony Monday, 11 March intended to mark the beginning of construction of the Pakistani side of the pipeline.

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline is designed to help Pakistan overcome its mushrooming energy needs at a time when the country is facing increased blackouts and energy shortages.

But there are serious doubts about how Pakistan could finance the $1.5bn needed to construct the pipeline and whether it could go through with the project without facing U.S. sanctions, which Washington has put in place to pressure Iran over its nuclear program, reports Associated Press.

Zardari praised Iran for its help in the project and said the pipeline was a vital part of his country's development.

"In order to help ourselves we've got to be economically sound," he told the crowd.

The U.S. has opposed the project, instead promoting an alternative pipeline that runs from the gas fields of Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and then to India. The U.S. has also championed a number of electricity generation projects within Pakistan, such as helping renovate hydropower dams.

Iran's deputy oil minister, Javad Owji, told Iranian state television that Tehran already built 900 kilometres (560 miles) of the pipeline, with about 320 kilometres (200 miles) remaining to be built inside Iran.

The Pakistan segment of the pipeline is expected to be about 780 kilometres (500 miles). Owji said Iranian contractors will be involved in building the Pakistani portion of the pipeline.

Gas is supposed to start flowing in by the end of 2014, although few see that deadline as realistic, considering the delays so far.

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