Pakistan PM visits Iran amid tensions
During his two-day visit Sharif, who is accompanied by senior advisers, is also expected to meet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met Iran’s president Sunday at the start of a visit during which talks are likely to include border security and a stalled gas pipeline deal.
Sharif and President Hassan Rowhani met briefly for lunch, and will hold more in-depth talks on “bilateral issues and the expansion of economic cooperation,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
During his two-day visit Sharif, who is accompanied by senior advisers, is also expected to meet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's ultimate authority, media reported.
As he met Sharif, Rowhani said Iran was ready to develop “road and railway networks between the two countries... as well as electric grids” in order to bolster economic ties, IRNA said.
The visit comes amid tensions between the neighbors following the kidnapping in February of five Iranian soldiers by Sunni extremists who took them across the border into Pakistan.
Not yet confirmed
Tehran says the soldiers -- four of whom returned home after being held for two months -- were taken across the border, a claim Islamabad denies.
The fate of the fifth soldier is unknown. His abductors claim to have killed him but this has yet to be officially confirmed.
Ties between Islamabad and Tehran have also been strained following the announcement in February by the Sharif government that Pakistan was suspending work on a $7.5-billion pipeline for Iranian gas exports.
Work on the Iranian side is almost complete and Tehran expects Pakistan to finish the project on its side.
IRNA quoted Sharif as saying Sunday that his government “is determined to remove obstacles” in the way of the gas pipeline. He did not elaborate.
He also said that Islamabad would cooperate with Tehran “to eliminate Jaish-ul Adl” or Amy of Justice in Arabic, the Sunni rebel group that had captured the soldiers, IRNA said.
The group, active in the restive southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province, took up arms in 2012 to fight for what it says are the rights of Iran's minority Sunni population.
Sistan-Baluchestan is home to a large Sunni minority which has seen unrest in recent years fuelled by its alleged marginalization in the predominantly Shiite Islamic republic.
IRNA reported that several protocol agreements would be signed during Sharif's visit.
It quoted Rowhani as saying that Iran hoped cooperation with Pakistan would reach “a superior level”.
Pakistan Taliban chief makes last-ditch bid to assert authorityThe factional fighting has complicated attempts by the Pakistani government to end the insurgency through peace talks Asia
Pakistan's parliament votes to lift ban on YouTubeThe video-sharing website has been blocked in Pakistan since September 2012 over its hosting of the "Innocence of Muslims" movie Digital
Is Pakistan heading for another military take over?Following an assassination on a senior journalist in Pakistan, the country is still suffering from the shockwaves and there are many unanswered questions left World
1300GMT: Wanted Saudi citizens return from PakistanNews Bulletins
Wanted Saudi citizens return from PakistanThe Saudi Interior Ministry said it has captured two of its wanted citizens from Pakistan Middle East
U.S.: Qaeda affiliates surge, attacks on the riseLosses in al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan have “accelerated” the network’s decentralization News