Try to see what Congressional Legislation before proceeding: Holbrooke

The U.S. has warned Pakistan about the possibility of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline running into rough weather because of the sanctions imposed earlier this month on Iran owing to Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment that could produce fuel for a nuclear weapon.

This word of caution was conveyed to Pakistan by the U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, during his talks with the country's leadership here over the weekend. Confirming this during a special briefing on Sunday for the American media in Islamabad, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “We cautioned the Pakistanis to try to see what the (Congressional) legislation is before deciding how to proceed because it would be a disaster if… we had a situation develop where an agreement was reached which then triggered something under the law.''

Shortly after Mr. Holbrooke's briefing, Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi maintained that the deal would not be impacted by the sanctions; a position that the Foreign Office has held since this chapter in the ongoing U.S.-Iran stand-off was opened.

Though Mr. Holbrooke did not go into the details of the legislation that is being prepared by the U.S. to factor in the sanctions, he said it could well be comprehensive and, therefore, cause problems for any company or country doing business with Iran. Primarily, according to Mr. Holbrooke, the U. S. told Pakistan not to commit itself too much into the deal till the contours of the legislation are known.

The U. S. warning comes a week after Iran and Pakistan inked the last in a series of agreements needed to operationalise the deal. As per the agreement, Iran will export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan.

The pipeline will facilitate transfer of natural gas from Iran's biggest gas field in South Pars to Pakistan through its restive Balochistan province. Iran has already constructed the 907 km-long Asalooyeh Energy Zone-Iranshahr section of the pipeline and began work last week on the remaining 300 km stretch to the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Pakistan, which is reeling under a severe energy crisis, has to undertake a feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline from the border with Iran to Nawabshah.

Originally conceived in the mid-1990s, the pipeline was to be a three-nation venture extending right up to India. Security considerations and inability to come to an understanding with Pakistan over transmission charges saw India waver time and again over joining the project amid speculation of New Delhi also coming under Washington pressure not to do business with Tehran. Now, the sanctions have put another question mark on the pipeline.

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