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Pakistan Speeds Pursuit of Iranian Pipeline, Defying U.S.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

ISLAMABAD (Mid Columbia Tri City Herald) – With a decision to fast-track the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Iran, Pakistan is underscoring not only the energy needs of its flailing economy but also its growing estrangement from Washington.

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The South Pars field is a natural gas condensate field located in the Persian Gulf. It is the world’s largest gas field, shared between Iran and Qatar. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the field holds an estimated 51 trillion m³ of in-situ natural gas and some 7.9 billion m³ of natural gas condensates. This gas field covers an area of 9,700 km², of which 3,700 km² (South Pars) is in Iranian territorial waters and 6,000 km² (North Dome) is in Qatari territorial waters.

The move came despite the objections of the United States and could put Pakistan at risk of violating U.S. sanctions on Tehran aimed at denying Iran hard currency that it needs for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But as President Asif Ali Zardari (آصف علی زرداری) said in a rare television interview last week, Pakistan has no choice but to seek greater ties with its neighbours – Iran, China, India and Afghanistan – “because the economies of the West are in trouble and not in a position to help us.”

Zardari’s comments were the clearest enunciation yet of a change in Pakistan’s foreign policy away from the United States as Islamabad plans for 2014, when U.S.-led NATO combat forces are expected to stand down in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has repeatedly urged Pakistan to reconsider its plans to import up to 1 billion m³ of natural gas a year beginning in 2017 from Iran’s South Pars field – part of a geological structure under the Persian Gulf that forms the world’s largest deposit of natural gas. Last week, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We’ve made absolutely clear over many months now our concern about this deal and we will continue to talk to Pakistan about it.”

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