World News

Pakistan PM reverses stance on U.S. sanctions on Iran

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s prime minister backtracked on Tuesday from a statement that Islamabad would abide by U.S. sanctions on Iran that could affect a $7.6 billion (5.1 billion pound) Pakistani-Iranian gas pipeline project.

On Monday, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan would respect U.S. sanctions that are expected to be put into law shortly, part of Washington’s opposition to an Iranian nuclear programme it suspects is being used for weapons.

Gilani said on Tuesday, however, he wanted to clarify and “get it right.”

“As far as the U.S. is concerned, we’re not bound to follow it,” he said while speaking at a ceremony in Islamabad. “If these are U.N. (sanctions) then according to international laws, we’ll consider them.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke warned Islamabad on Sunday against overcommitting to the natural gas pipeline project because of the expected effects of the sanctions.

Pakistan is desperate for new energy sources, saddled with expensive generation and a daily shortage of as much as 5,000 megawatts. Frequent outages hamper industry and have sparked street protests against President Asif Ali Zardari’s government.

The pipeline, expected to be completed by 2015, originally would have terminated in India. However, New Delhi has been reluctant to join given its long-running rivalry with Pakistan.

Editing by Bryson Hull and Paul Tait