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LAHORE: Former Iranian foreign minister Syed Kamal Kharazi says his country is looking for ways for direct rice import from Pakistan.

“Iranians are rice-eaters and fond of Pakistan’s basmati rice which is being imported through Dubai to the disadvantage of both Iranian consumers and Pakistani exporters,” Mr Kharazi told rice exporters at a ceremony held here on Sunday.

Acting consul-general Majid Sadeghi Dowlatabadi was also present on the occasion.

Responding to a demand made by Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan President Chaudhry Samiullah Naeem in the welcome address, Mr Kharazi said Tehran was also working on a proposal for opening bank branches in both the countries for direct trade transactions in currencies other than dollar to avoid the US pressure (sanctions).

He said Tehran was interested in bilateral cooperation in various sectors and not just rice and was negotiating with Islamabad for reducing duties on bilateral trade.

Recalling Iran’s role in lending support to Pakistan when the latter needed the most soon after its creation, he said his country under a bilateral agreement also constructed gas pipeline up to the Pakistan borders while the latter, he regretted, under the US pressure could not yet accomplish the construction work on its side.

He said the US sanctions rather helped Iran attain self-sufficiency in each sector, from infrastructure development to defence-related needs.

Earlier, Mr Naeem lamented that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Iran was less than $800 million while it could easily touch $10 billion mark if potential of both the countries was allowed to be exploited.

He demanded that Iran should reduce duties on exports from Pakistan in prelude to free trade agreement between the two neighbours. He said a delegation of rice exporters would soon leave for Iran and hoped that Mr Kharazi would help the visitors in striking business-to-business deals there.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2018