Hours after Pakistan and Iran inaugurated the much-delayed section of a $7.5 billion gas pipeline, the United States has expressed ‘serious concerns’ and warned Islamabad that if it went ahead with the project, it would face sanctions.
"We have serious concerns, if this project actually goes forward, that the Iran Sanctions Act would be triggered. We have been straight up with the Pakistanis about these concerns. As I said at some length last week, we are also working very closely bilaterally to support alternative projects to provide Pakistan with the energy that it needs," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"We have heard this pipeline announced about 10 or 15 times before in the past. So we have to see what actually happens. If this project actually goes forward, we have serious concerns that sanctions would be triggered," she said in response to a question.
"What the legislation calls for is for our partner countries to be making a concerted effort to reduce their dependence on Iranian oil over time so we are able to waive sanctions as we see reductions being made," she said.
"In the case of the European Union, they are now at zero. In the case of Japan, they have been making a steady decline, as have other countries that we have waived sanctions on. This pipeline project, if it actually goes forward, would take Pakistan in the wrong direction right at a time that we are trying to work with Pakistan on better, more reliable ways to meet its energy needs," Nuland said.
The US, she said, is working to help Pakistan address its energy needs.
"We are supporting large-scale energy projects in Pakistan that will add some 900 megawatts to the power grid by the end of 2013, fuelling an additional two million households. These include renovating the power plants at Tarbela, and the Mangla Dam, modernising the thermal plant at Guddu, Jamshoro and Muzaffargarh and building new dams at Satpara and Gomal Zam as well as our work together on the TAPI pipeline," she said.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, along with his Iranian counterpart, have inaugurated the much-delayed section of the $7.5 billion gas pipeline, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying the West has no right to block the project.