Chabhar (Iran): Unfazed by US pressure, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari along with his Iranian counterpart on Monday inaugurated the much-delayed section of a USD 7.5 billion gas pipeline with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying West has no right to block the project.
    
Zardari had flown in here along with a huge delegation and joined Ahmadinejad in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pakistani section of the pipeline here near Pak-Iran border.
    
The groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of work on the 781-km Pakistani section of the pipeline to be built at a cost of USD 1.5 billion.
    
Iran will provide a USD 500 million loan for the project. The pipeline on the Iranian side is almost complete.
    
The two presidents together unveiled the plaque of the mega project terming it vital for the development of two neighbouring states.
    
Zardari, in his address at the event, termed the pipeline project as "very important" for Pakistan.
    
He said the prosperity of Pakistan and Iran was inter-linked and the former was striving to become self-reliant.
    
He said the international community was unaware of the problems of regional countries and was not cognizant of appropriate solutions to many issues.
    
The event was shown live on various Pakistani channels showing Zardari and Ahmadinejad shaking hands with various dignitaries as the ceremony got under way.
    
"On Monday is a historic day. The gas pipeline project is the beginning of a great work," Ahmadinejad said adding "The Westerners have no right to make any obstacles in the way of the project."
    
The ceremony was attended by a large number of foreign dignitaries, ministers, members of parliament and political leaders from both the countries.
    
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman and the United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Mohammad Bin Dha'en Al Hameli also attended the event, Pakistan's state-run APP news agency said.

Pakistan's federal ministers, including Hina Rabbani Khar, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Arbab Alamgir and Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Advisor on Petroleum Resources Dr Asim Hussain, Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Raja and Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi were also present.
    
According to officials at Iran's Oil Ministry, construction of the project, known as 'Peace Pipeline', will take two years, Islamic Republic News Agency of Iran said in a report.
    
"The completion of the pipeline is in the interests of peace, security and progress of the two countries ... it will also consolidate the economic, political and security ties of the two nations," the Presidents of both countries said in a joint statement.
    
The visit marks Zardari's second to Iran since February 27 and comes despite American warnings. The US has called on Pakistan to abandon the pipeline project, saying it has offered alternative solutions to the country's energy requirements.
    
US Ambassador Richard Olson has said Pakistan should focus on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.
    
India quit the Iran pipeline project in 2009, citing costs and security issues. The US has said the project could violate sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities that Washington suspects are aimed at developing a weapons capability. Iran denies this and says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
    
An Iranian-Pakistani consortium will complete the project and Pakistan is expected to start receiving gas after the pipeline is completed in December 2014. Iran will supply 750 million cubic feet of gas a day to Pakistan.

(Agencies)

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