Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pakistan "not fighting America's war"

LARKANA, Pakistan June 21: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday stunned most people in the country by declaring that Pakistan would abide by any US sanctions on Iran, which was certain to jeopardise the much-needed Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project.

Until now Pakistan had faithfully abided by all kinds of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, whether they were against Iraq, Iran or any other country. But Islamabad rarely adhered to similar sanctions imposed by one country on another as a result of political or diplomatic rows, especially if they were against its national or economic interests.

However, speaking to reporters after participating in the birth anniversary celebrations of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Mr Gilani clearly suggested that Pakistan would abide by such restrictions imposed by the United States.

“If the US imposes sanctions, they will have international implications and Pakistan as a member of the international community will follow them,” he said in response to a question at a news conference.

His surprising remarks came a day after the visiting US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, advised Islamabad against finalising the $7.6 billion gas pipeline project with Iran, with a warning that such a move could hit Pakistani companies involved in the project.

Mr Holbrooke’s warning was linked to a current move in the US Congress where a legislation to further tighten sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme was in final stages.

Experts believe that abandoning what has come to be known as a ‘peace pipeline’ agreement may severely affect Pakistan’s plan to meet its energy needs in the next two decades.

The experts were of the view that over the next two decades Pakistan was likely to depend primarily on timely realisation of two key projects -- to import gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LNG), the former from Iran through a multi-million dollars pipeline.

The agreement with Iran, which was said to be in its final stages, entails first gas inflows by the end of 2014 which could be advanced by one year if domestic gas companies were engaged to construct about 750 kilometres of the pipeline.

Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan and India could not afford war because they were facing a number of issues, including poverty, unemployment and terrorism. He said that dialogue, and not war, was the only solution to the problems.

Mr Gilani said he had talked to Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh who agreed to discuss core issues and find solution through negotiations. “I received a letter from the Indian prime minister yesterday (Sunday) and he has expressed his willingness to initiate dialogue in line with our earlier talks.”

He said the country was not fighting America’s war. “We are fighting the war in Pakistan’s interest and for our existence. We want to improve relations with our neighbouring countries on the basis of equality.”

From here.

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