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Musharraf defends pipeline at Davos

With Washington openly hostile to Iran, Pak Prez said gas pipeline, involving India, was a purely economic project.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2006 20:09 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

President Pervez Musharraf mounted a strong defence on Thursday of Pakistan's plans for a natural gas pipeline with Iran, amid pressure from a concerned United States.

With Washington openly hostile to Iran, Musharraf said the pipeline, which also involves India, was a purely economic project that had nothing to do with the row over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"It's a totally economic deal," he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "It does not conflict at all with our stand on the nuclear issue."

"It has nothing to do with the nuclear programme of Iran."

Tehran is reported to be close to an accord with India and Pakistan for the 2,600-kilometre pipeline costing more than $7 billion.

The United States, however, said earlier this month that it was "absolutely opposed" to the project.

Musharraf said many other countries already imported energy from Iran, and there was no reason why Pakistan should not do the same.

"We need energy" to feed Pakistan's surging economy, the president added. "We are looking at all sorts of energy."

Musharraf had said in a separate interview published on Thursday in Britain's Financial Times that he had no plans to ditch the deal.

At the same time, he signalled the possibility the United States could pay Pakistan to step away from the deal.

"Our industrial growth, foreign direct investment, depends on availability of energy," he said.

"We are proceeding with the pipeline. It is in our economic interest. If somebody wants to stop us they should compensate us ... But at the moment we are going ahead."

First Published: Jan 26, 2006 19:53 IST