Not content to leave the matter to diplomats, the U.S government decided to involve the media in their meddling; arguing Pakistan and Iran bilateral relations would be negative for the region and even dangerous.
Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline projects became of course the main focus point of America's anger as it feared the deal would in essence help Iran bypass its sanctions and render all hope to isolate Tehran impossible.
The Wall Street Journal recently published a report in which it wrote "Washington has made it clear that it will impose economic sanctions on Islamabad if it begins to buy gas from Iran. Besides, the UN mandated sanctions on any trade with the oil-rich country."
The WSJ added the U.S embassy in Islamabad had already cautioned officials against such a deal with Iran, despite the fact that it would make perfect sense for power starved Pakistan, stressing "We have cautioned all of our interlocutors around the world that it is in their interests to avoid activities that may be prohibited by United Nations sanctions or sanctionable under US law against Iran.”
Many Pakistani officials believe that their country has much to gain in befriending Iran as it would prove a useful and logical partner in the region.
These divergences of opinions have been driving wedges between Washington and Islamabad.
As President Zardari is preparing to visit Tehran, Pakistan Minister of Interior, Rehman Malik paid a visit to officials in Tehran this week. Iran Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi also call to Pakistan this week to discuss bilateral relations.
While talking to Iran’s Petroleum Minister, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Tuesday that the pipeline would be a “big leap forward” in resolving country’s crippling power crisis.
Pakistani experts noted the pipeline would bring relief to energy-starved Pakistan as well bring new dynamics to geopolitical relations in the region.
While in Pakistan Minister Ghasemi explained Iran had already completed its part of the gas pipeline project and was now waiting on Pakistan. The Iranian Minister also conveyed his President,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's best wished to Pakistan Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister expressed the hope that on-going meetings between officials of the two countries will continue to be fruitful. He asked the Iranian Minister to convey his greetings and best wishes to the President of Iran.
Moreover, Iran agreed to set up a $4 billion oil refinery in Gwadar with an estimated capacity of about 400,000 barrels per day.
Tehran has already offered $500 for the construction of Pakistan gas pipeline.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Adviser on Petroleum and Natural Resources, Dr Asim Hussain told the media on Wednesday that an understanding to this effect had been reached during a meeting between Iranian delegation led by Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
An official stressed a memorandum of understanding for setting up the refinery was expected to be signed during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Tehran on Feb 27.
He added land for the project would be provided to Iran near Gwadar port.
Dr Asim explained Pakistan was expected to pay the price of gas to be delivered to it through the Pak-Iran gas pipeline and petroleum products purchased from the proposed refinery in the form of food products, particularly wheat, rice and meat.
He added a technical team would visit Tehran on Thursday to finalize all parameters of the MoU on the refinery and settle issues relating to the Pak-Iran gas pipeline.
Meanwhile, the visiting Iranian delegation met with President Asif Ali Zardari ahead of his visit to Tehran next week.
In a statement President Zardari highlighted Pakistan’s energy needs and steps taken to meet them. He called for greater connectivity between the two countries and stressed the need for moving forward on the ‘ECO Container Train’ project.
He emphasized that regular operation of the ‘ECO Train’ would lend impetus to cargo and transit facilities between the two countries. The president said Pakistan would welcome technical and financial support from Iran for upgrading the Quetta-Taftan railway track.
Mr Zardari called for improving visa procedures, opening new border posts and removing tariff and non-tariff barriers. He also called for early finalization of agreement to export of wheat to Iran.
He said Pakistan was examining feasibility of starting direct flights from Quetta and Gilgit to Mashhad and expressed satisfaction over the signing of security cooperation agreement between the two countries. He said enhanced cooperation on border security would help to counter terrorism, cross-border crimes and drugs trade.