Despite American warnings of possible sanctions, an Iranian-Pakistani consortium is due to start work next week on a much delayed $7.5 billion 780-kilometer gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.
"The ground breaking is going to be performed on March 11 on the Pakistani side of border and we hope that the Presidents of the two countries will be present on the occasion," a senior Pakistani official requesting anonymity told AFP.
The date was revealed after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari
held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.
He said the ceremony would mark the start on the Pakistani end of the 780-kilometer pipeline which is expected to cost $1.5 billion.
The pipeline on the Iranian side is said to have be almost complete. Iran boasts the second largest gas reserves in the world. Despite being strangled by a Western oil embargo that has seen its crude exports halved in the past year, it currently produces up to 600 million cubic meters of gas a day, almost all of which is consumed domestically. Turkey takes 90 percent of what Iran exports, while Turkmenistan takes around 10 percent, according to Reuters.
Pakistan is suffering from an energy crisis and has faced financial difficulties with the project, amid threats of possible sanctions due to Iran's controversial nuclear activities.
"It's in their best interests to avoid any sanctionable activity, and we think that we provide and are providing... a better way to meet their energy needs," AFP has quoted US State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell as saying on Wednesday.
Pakistan said it would pursue its gas pipeline project regardless of the possible sanctions.