Musharraf, Ahmadinejad hold talks

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Islamabad, Apr 28 (UNI) Pakistan and Iran today agreed to sign an agreement to kick-start the multi-billion gas pipeline project, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf.

Mr Ahmadinejad arrived here this morning on a brief visit to meet leaders of the new coalition government and President Musharraf.

On arrival at Aiwan-e-Sadr, or presidential palace, Mr Ahmadinejad was greeted by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

He was also presented with guard of honour by smartly turned out contingent of Pakistan armed forces.

This was the Iranian President's first visit to Pakistan since assuming presidency in 2005.

During talks, Mr Ahmadinejad also agreed to provide 1100 MW of electricity to Pakistan to help it overcome the acute energy shortage, particularly in areas adjoining Iran.

Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi later told reporters that the talks were positive and covered all aspects of their wide ranging relationship.

''The two leaders said the IPI project will promote peace and friendship,'' Mr Qureshi said and added that the two foreign ministers have been tasked to agree on a mutually convenient date for signing the agreement.

He said the two leaders expressed satisfaction over the resolution of all issues that had delayed a final agreement and hoped the project will help meet future energy needs of Pakistan.

Tehran has been asking Pakistan and India to resolve issues of transit fees and transportation tariff to formally kick-start the IPI project.

Pakistan and Indian oil ministers had told reporters on Friday in Islamabad after their talks that they had reached an understanding on fundamentals of agreement aimed at settling unresolved issues.

Iran also gave a positive response to the Pakistani proposal for allowing a gas pipeline through its territory to provide gas to China, along the historic Karakoram Highway, to help it meet its growing industrial needs, Mr Qureshi said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who was in Islamabad last week, said his government was studying participation of China in the project.

The Iranian President said his country will provide 1100 MW of electricity to Pakistan to help it meet its needs, particularly in southwestern Gwadar town and adjoining areas. Currently Iran is providing 35 MW for areas adjoining the Pak-Iran border.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and stressed that peace and stability was vital for the region.

President Musharraf and President Ahmadinejad reviewed their economic relations and said that they need to be further upgraded to bring these at par with their political and diplomatic ties.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the two countries already have a Preferential Trade Agreement and a Joint Investment Company and hoped the trade would soon touch the US one billion dollar mark.

About Pakistan's stance on Iran's nuclear issue, he said, ''We support Iran's use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, under the IAEA guidelines.'' UNI XC RJ HT1450

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