India-Iran-Pak gas pipeline on Khatami's agenda

Wednesday, 18 December 2002, 08:00 Hrs
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran will discuss an eight-point agenda, among them a gas pipeline to India, during President Mohammad Khatami's visit here next week, sources said Wednesday.

Khatami arrives in Islamabad on December 23 for a three-day visit. "The visit is being considered vital to Pakistan-Iran relations," a senior government official said.

The issues to be discussed during the meetings here include the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, trade ties between the two countries, Afghanistan and regional peace.

The smuggling of petroleum products into Pakistan from the western border, a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the war on terrorism and the setting up of markets close to the border between the two countries are the other issues.

The Iranian president will have informal meetings with his Pakistani counterpart President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali soon after his arrival.

Formal talks will be held in Islamabad on December 24, which may continue the next day.

Pakistan-India relations and the Kashmir issue will also figure in the talks though they are not directly related to the agenda, said the official.

An Iranian diplomat based in Islamabad said Iran would accord top priority to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and ask Islamabad to expedite the process for early completion.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar had assured the Iranian leadership of Islamabad's full cooperation, promising security and uninterrupted supplies to India.

India has in the past expressed concern about an overland pipeline through Pakistan, citing security reasons and expressed its preference for an undersea pipeline. However, India and Iran have agreed to explore all options.
Source: IANS
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