No objection to Pak-Iran pipeline deal: USA

US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke has said his country has no objection to the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project.

“Pakistan is facing an energy crisis. The US has no objection to the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project as it is an internal matter of Islamabad,” Holbrooke said at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday as they emerged out of a meeting between chairpersons of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue at the Foreign Office.

Holbrooke went on to say that Pakistan was a great country and it had assumed vital significance all over the world. The entire world had acknowledged the unparalleled sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war on terror, he added.

“But it doesn’t mean that we’ve reached the end of the road. This is a tough, long struggle and much more needs to be done,” he said.

Referring to the sectoral dialogue, he said, “We are discussing real policy issues and how to work together to advance our common agenda”.

“This was the first time we have discussed water issues with Pakistan in such detail. Having provincial and federal water experts working together is essential to overcome Pakistan’s water scarcity issue,” he added. Responding to a question regarding development of Pakistan’s economy, he said, “We have discussed efforts to advance through Congress the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (RoZ) legislation.”

He said Pakistan’s efforts to advance measures on labour rights and inspections for these ROZs also figured in the discussion.

“We also discussed efforts to promote business opportunities for Pakistani textile and apparel manufacturers. I am pleased to announce that the US will support Pakistani producers at a major trade show in New York, being held from July 13 to 15,” he said.

Holbrooke said, “We want to give the US business community a chance to learn that Pakistan is open for business, and we want to help you showcase the quality of your great Pakistani products.”

On trust deficit, he said Pakistan is most important ally in the war on terror and that we’ll never leave it alone in difficulties. He said terrorism is our common enemy and Pakistan had to face more losses as compared to any country.

Asked whom he would hold responsible if al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar were hiding somewhere along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Holbrooke said: “Many of their associates have been apprehended or killed. Even though these two people … are still at large, they are under intense pressure.”

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the ongoing Pak-US strategic dialogue will be completed by July 9. He said seven rounds of dialogue have been undertaken while US secretary of state Hillary Clinton will visit Pakistan in July to kick off the second phase.

Holbrooke favoured bilateral engagement in the energy sector and said, “We only announced our initiatives on energy nine months ago when Clinton was here in October. Now the progress and measures put in place since Prime Minister Gilani convened your energy summit in April are clear”. He went on to note that power cuts have decreased in the urban areas “and we have seen a clear government commitment to put energy on a more solid financial footing”.

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