Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari turned down a US demand for a halt in Islamabad gas pipeline project with Iran, saying that his country would accelerate the project instead.
He said Pakistan has decided to work on a priority basis to obtain natural gas from Iran. US Ambassador Munter held a meeting with President Zardari to dissuade him from continuing with this project, proffering the gas line from Turkmenistan in its stead.
In response, the Pakistani president insisted that the Iranian gas is needed to provide some relief from his country's shortages. These shortages have not only caused the failure of the gas companies providing to power plants, forcing them to turn to furnace oil, which has to be imported, but have also created severe difficulties for the domestic consumer.
He said Pakistan has sped up the pace of work on the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project.
Highly-placed diplomatic sources told The Nation that the project, which was likely to be completed in 2014, might be completed one year ahead of its schedule, and the gas flow would start between June and December 2013.
"Americans have gone to the extent of threatening President Zardari of economic sanctions if work is not stopped immediately," the sources said.
Pakistan Petroleum Minister Asim Hussain said all physical surveys to lay 790-kilometre pipeline into Pakistan's soil have already been completed.
"China, ICPC and Habib Bank Limited have been chosen to act as financial advisers. China has also given assurances to financially help Pakistan construct this pipeline to complete this project on war footing," The Nation quoted Hussain, as saying.
"Our dependence on Iran-Pakistan pipeline was very high and there is no other substitute at present to meet the growing demand for energy," he added.
He said the Steering Committee would grant a formal clearance to the project before the tenders are floated to already short-listed contractors.