ISLAMABAD (AFP) -- A consortium will start work next week on a much delayed $7.5 billion gas pipeline from Pakistan to Iran despite American warnings of possible sanctions, Pakistani officials said.
The date was announced after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari held talks in Tehran with Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who urged Islamabad to press ahead with the project.
“The groundbreaking is going to be performed on March 11 on the Pakistani side of border and we hope that the presidents of the two countries will be present on the occasion,” a senior Pakistani official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
He said the ceremony would mark the start of work by an Iranian-Pakistani consortium on the 780-kilometer (485-mile) pipeline earmarked for the Pakistani side of the border, which is said to cost some $1.5 billion.
A second Pakistani official also confirmed March 11 as the start date.
Although the pipeline on the Iranian side has almost been completed, Pakistan has run into repeated difficulties, both in financing the project and over a U.S. threat of possible sanctions.
Iran eventually agreed to finance a third of the costs of laying the pipeline through Pakistani territory to Nawabshah, north of Karachi, with the work to be carried out by an Iranian company.
Pakistani officials said in mid-December that Iran had promised a $500 million loan and that Islamabad would meet the rest of the cost.
“The government has assured us that they will arrange this money through different sources including international financial institutions,” a Pakistani official told AFP.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader