Iran General NewsIran, Pakistan urge stronger ties

Iran, Pakistan urge stronger ties

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AFP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari called on Saturday for a boost to bilateral relations, the official IRNA news agency reported.

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari called on Saturday for a boost to bilateral relations, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“Iran is ready to reinforce its cooperation with Pakistan in every field,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

“Construction of the pipeline to export Iranian gas to Pakistan is underway, and we hope it will reach the frontier by the end of 2012,” he added of a multi-billion-dollar project.

Zardari also said relations between the neighbours should be strengthened, and urged that “trade between the two countries be conducted in local currency and not the dollar, to curb smuggling,” IRNA said.

He also denounced “efforts by our enemies who seek to show that the Pakistani government is unstable by provoking trouble,” saying that those responsible would face justice.

Zardari’s trip to Tehran, a sworn enemy of the United States, comes after Washington deferred $800 million (566 million euros) in military aid to Islamabad in a bid to seek greater defence cooperation.

It also comes less than a month after Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to cooperate to fight against militants.

Zardari’s earlier visit had been to attend a counter-terrorism summit, on the sidelines of which the three countries reached the anti-militant cooperation agreement.

“After the conference and the tripartite Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan meeting, we decided to pursue bilateral relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted on state television as saying before Saturday’s visit.

Zardari was also received by Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Fars news agency reported Khamenei as telling Zardari: “The principal enemy of the Pakistani people and the unity of the country is the West, headed by the United States.”

Washington suspended the military assistance — about one third of its $2.7 billion annual defence package — some two months after a US operation killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden near Pakistan’s top military academy.

After the raid, the United States pledged to keep relations steady with Pakistan. But US frustration has mounted, including over Islamabad’s decision to oust up to 200 US personnel who planned to train Pakistani forces.

Iranian officials have been vocal in their criticism of the prolonged US troop deployments in neighbouring Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which are now set to be drawn down.

They have also repeatedly accused the US and Pakistani intelligence services of helping Sunni Islamist insurgents active in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Pakistan’s own restive Baluchistan province.

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