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Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline could trigger US sanctions

22 March 2013

Iran and Pakistan have celebrated the start of construction of the Pakistani leg of a $7.5 billion, 1,900km gas pipeline, which aims to supply Pakistan with natural gas to fuel power generation, but it could also trigger US sanctions, making it impossible to raise remaining funds needed to build the pipeline's last segment.

The US has warned that the project could incur sanctions connected with Iran's nuclear programme.The work on the Iranian side is almost complete, and construction in Pakistan started on March 11.

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline, previously the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, is seen in Pakistan as a way of alleviating the country's chronic energy shortages. A total of 780km (485 miles) of pipeline is due to be built Pakistan over the next two years.

The pipeline decision will worsen already fraught relations between Washington and Islamabad. The US has consistently warned that the pipeline - if built - could potentially lead to US sanctions against Pakistan as part of Washington's efforts to contain Iran's nuclear programme.

Washington - a major donor to Pakistan - has also argued that there are other ways to ease Pakistan's energy crisis. One option favoured by the US is a plan to import gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, which has been under discussion for years.

But power shortages have become a major and pressing issue in Pakistan, and the government there insists it will not bow to pressure.

A nationwide power cut last month was blamed on a technical fault in a plant in south-western Balochistan province, but it highlighted the energy challenges the country faces.

Blackouts are common in Pakistan because of chronic power shortages, and many areas are without electricity for several hours a day. 

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