Pakistan, Iran agree to speed up gas pipeline project

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Pakistan announced on Tuesday it had agreed with Iran to speed implementation of a much-delayed gas pipeline project designed to link Iran's giant South Pars gas field with consumers in South Asia.

The United States opposes the $7.5-billion project because it could violate sanctions imposed on Iran over nuclear activities Washington suspects are aimed at developing an atom bomb, although Tehran denies this.

In an announcement following a breakthrough pact between Iran and global powers, Pakistan said both sides would speed up work to finish construction of the pipeline.

"It was also agreed that a meeting will be held shortly between the experts of both sides to review parameters for accelerating work on IP Gas pipeline," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It did not say when the pipeline would be completed.

Iran agreed with six world powers last month to curb its nuclear program in return for some easing of sanctions in a landmark pact seen as a first step towards resolving a decade-old dispute over the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear program.

Pakistan needs the pipeline from neighboring Iran, which sits on the world's largest reserves of gas, to alleviate severe energy shortages that have crippled the economy.

But it has made little progress on its section of the pipeline for lack of funds and warnings it could be in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Iran, for its part, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and nearly completed the 900-km (560 mile) pipeline to the Pakistan border. Under the contract, Iran would export 21.5 million cubic meters of gas per day to Pakistan from next year.