Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, talks to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, left, in their meeting at the Iranian presidency office, in Tehran, Iran on Monday. – Photo by AP

TEHRAN: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has agreed with Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday that the gas pipeline project and the import of 1000MW electricity from Iran should be expedited because Pakistan was facing an acute shortage of energy which was hampering its economic growth.

During a meeting at the President House, the two leaders also agreed to enhance cooperation in trade and economy and security and intelligence sharing. They agreed to allow private sectors to play a role in developing their economies and to set up a mechanism to remove bottlenecks, if any.

President Ahmadinejad said Pakistan would get priority in meeting the requirements of Iran and goods and services available in Pakistan would get preferential treatment. He said his country was interested in importing wheat, vegetables, fruits and other items from Pakistan. The two countries agreed to increase bilateral trade to $10 billion from the current $1.2 billion. Mr Gilani called for upgrading rail, road and air links to realise the immense potential of trade.

Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan should make coordinated efforts to resolve the issue of security in the region.

Mr Gilani said two committees, one headed by foreign ministers and the other by interior ministers, would meet on a regular basis to make their borders safe and work out ways of boosting economic activities and trade.

He said there was a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy and it wanted to forge close relations with its neighbours. Iran, he added, was one of the countries with which it would like to develop ‘very close relations’.

He said Pakistan wanted a sovereign, independent, prosperous and stable Afghanistan and supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.

He said Pakistan had lost 5,000 soldiers and 35,000 civilians in the war against terrorism, adding that his government had made it clear to the US government that unilateral actions were not acceptable and if they had any credible information they must pass it on to Pakistan and its security forces would act on it. He said drone attacks were counter-productive and should be stopped.

The Iranian president said that outside powers kept them underdeveloped because they derived strength from their weaknesses. “They keep the countries poor and unstable.”

He called for a new world order based on humanitarian values and justice. “The world is going through transition at a very fast speed and it is imperative that innovative strategy should be evolved and implemented to offset its negative fallout on our people.”

The Iranian president agreed to consider Pakistan’s request for opening a consulate in Bandar Abbas and a cultural centre in Tehran.

He also agreed to declare Multan and Rasht (Gilan) as sister cities. He said he was looking forward to visiting Pakistan to meet his Pakistani brothers and sisters.

Prime Minister Gilani also met First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and discussed with him the gas pipeline and electricity projects. They agreed to increase people-to-people contacts. Mr Gilani praised the Iranian government for providing $100 million for people affected by floods in Pakistan.—APP

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