Iran, Pakistan, India to build joint gas pipeline

Energy officials from Pakistan, Iran and India said Monday that they will build a pipeline to deliver Iranian gas to the South Asian nations, despite U.S. opposition to the proposed project because of Tehran's nuclear program. The senior government officials opened a two-day meeting in the Pakistani capital to review progress so far made about implementing the project and they "expressed satisfaction over its pace," a Pakistan government statement said after Monday's talks.

"The working group reiterated the desire of their leaderships to implement the project as soon as possible for the mutual benefit," the statement said. The 2,775-kilometer (1,735-mile)-long Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project has not materialized since Iran proposed it in 1996 mainly because of India's concern for the pipeline's security through Pakistan.

India and Pakistan share a history of hostile relations and the nuclear-armed rivals have fought three wars as well. In recent years, amid a thaw in Pakistan-India relations, the three countries have held a series of negotiations and they have vowed to build the pipeline.

The United States has repeatedly expressed opposition to the project because it accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program. But Tehran insists that it wants to produce civilian nuclear power. Washington has also urged Pakistan and India its two close allies in the region to get energy from alternative sources, including from Central Asia. On Sunday, Pakistan and Iran held talks bilaterally on the US$7 billion (5.8 billion) project. Pakistani and Iranian officials have said they will build the pipeline even if India does not join it, reports the AP.