Iranian President in Pakistan to Discuss Afghanistan, Gas Pipeline

Iranian and Pakistani leaders resolved issues related to a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project opposed by the United States during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's brief Monday visit to Pakistan, state media reported.

Ahmadinejad, on his first trip to the neighboring country, met with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad during his four-hour stay before leaving for Sri Lanka.

Musharraf and Ahmadinejad were satisfied that "all issues that had delayed a final agreement" on the natural gas pipeline project were resolved, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. The report did not specify the issues resolved.

The two Muslim countries' foreign ministers will set a date for signing the pipeline accord, Qureshi said, according to APP.

India has also been involved in the project. The proposed pipeline would run 1,625 miles from Iran to India through Pakistan and initially carry 2,120 million cubic feet of gas a day.

The project has been hit by delays since Iran proposed it in the 1990s, mainly because of Indian concerns about the safety of sections of the $7.5 billion pipeline in Pakistan, India's rival for more than half a century.

The Indian and Pakistani oil ministers said Friday after talks in Islamabad that they were close to finalizing their part of the pipeline accord.

The U.S. opposes the project because it fears it will weaken efforts to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for power generation.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan insists Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear technology and has called for the Iranian nuclear standoff to be resolved peacefully and without sanctions.

Gilani informed Ahmadinejad that his government was pursuing a policy of negotiations and economic development to fight Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal regions, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Iranian leader said his country supported progress and prosperity in Pakistan.

Iran and Pakistan have cordial relations but have not always agreed on the approach to Afghanistan. Pakistan was once one of the key backers of the Afghan Taliban, which Iran opposed.

The U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban from power, but Afghanistan still struggles with a Taliban-led insurgency. Afghan government officials have said Taliban leaders use Pakistani border areas to regroup and aid the insurgency.