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TEHRAN: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed on Sunday to continue with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

During a meeting with the Iranian president at Saadabad Palace, Mr Sharif said he had come to Tehran with his team to resolve all issues which were obstructing the project.

Both the leaders reiterated their commitment to increasing bilateral trade.

The prime minister said there was a lot of scope to increase the trade volume to $5 billion, adding that relations between the two countries were bound by historical and religious factors.

“I am here to open a new chapter in Pakistan-Iran relationship,” he said, adding: “As a prime minister, I first visited Iran in 1999 and have always found the Iranians more affectionate on every visit to the country.”

President Rouhani said Iran-Pakistan relations had historical connections. Apart from being neighbours, the two countries have common traditions and relations based on the Holy Quran and the traditions of Holy Prophet (PBUH).

Mr Sharif’s visit, he added, would further boost brotherly relations.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Balochistan Governor Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatimi attended the meeting.

Mr Sharif told the Iranian president that some elements were trying to sabotage Pakistan-Iran relations, but they would be dealt with firmly and their designs would be thwarted.

“We want security for development and development for security,” the prime minister added.

President Rouhani said peace in the region was their common goal. Iran will support Pakistan in development and becoming more secure.

The two leaders also discussed border security and agreed that better management and improved security measures would increase trade and strengthen relationship and cooperation.

Prime Minister Sharif invited President Rouhani to visit Pakistan which the latter accepted.

Earlier upon arrival, the prime minister was given a warm welcome at the Mehrabad International Airport. He was received by Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyabnia.

An official welcoming ceremony was held at Saadabad Palace.

The prime minister also held a meeting with First Vice-President Eshaq Jehangiri.

Prime Minister Sharif is visiting Iran on the invitation of President Rouhani.

During the two-day visit, a number of memoranda of understanding and agreements on cooperation in various fields would be signed.

President Rouhani 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, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The visit comes amid tensions between the neighbours following the kidnapping in February of five Iranian soldiers by Sunni extremists. Tehran says the soldiers — four of whom returned home after being held for two months — were taken across the border into Pakistan, a claim Islamabad denies.

Relations have also been strained following an announcement in February by the Nawaz Sharif government that Pakistan was suspending work on the $7.5billion gas pipeline project.

IRNA quoted Mr Sharif as saying that his government “is determined to remove obstacles” in the way of the gas pipeline.

He also said that Islamabad would cooperate with Tehran “to eliminate Jaish-ul Adl”, the rebel group which had captured the soldiers.—APP/AFP