WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned on Wednesday that the Iran gas pipeline project was “inexplicable” and could invoke US sanctions that would further ‘undermine’ Pakistan’s ‘already shaky’ economy.
Earlier, Congressman John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, drew Secretary Clinton’s attention to the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project during a congressional debate, reminding her that the State Department’s proposed budget for 2013 included roughly $1 billion to help Pakistan address its energy challenges.
He noted that the money was meant specifically for dealing with a proposed pipeline between Iran and Pakistan.
“I’d be very interested in knowing the position of the United States concerning the development of that pipeline. Where will we be going from here?” asked the congressman.
Secretary Clinton replied: “First, we recognise that Pakistan has significant energy requirements, and for the last three years we’ve been working to help them upgrade their existing energy infrastructure, to look at potential new sources of energy.”
She said: “The proposed Pakistan-Iran pipeline, however, if built, could raise serious concerns under the Iran Sanctions Act. We have made that absolutely clear. We have raised this issue with the government of Pakistan.”
She said the US was encouraging Pakistan to seek alternatives because of the nuclear dispute with Iran.
“As we are ratcheting up pressure on Iran, it seems somewhat inexplicable that Pakistan would be trying to negotiate a pipeline,” the secretary said. “And there is an alternative that we do strongly support — the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.”
The United States believed that it was a better alternative both in terms of predictability and to avoid doing business with Iran, she said.
“Now, if and when this pipeline goes beyond just talk, then we will address it consistent with US law and policies,” she warned.
“So if we see a pipeline proposal take an additional step that it would likely become a reality, do you have specific things in mind that will involve American response to that Pakistan pipeline deal?” the congressman asked.
“We believe that actually beginning the construction of such a pipeline either as an Iranian project or as a joint project would violate our Iran sanctions law. So, we all know what the consequences of that are, and it would be particularly damaging to Pakistan because their economy is already quite shaky,” Secretary Clinton warned. “This additional pressure that the United States would be compelled to apply would further undermine their economic status.”
The United States, she said, has been very clear in pointing out the consequences of pursuing such a pipeline.