Pakistan and Iran decided Monday to ink an agreement on a 7.5-billion-dollar gas pipeline in the coming weeks, officials said.
The final resolve on the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline came during a meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stopped over briefly in Islamabad en route to Sri Lanka, and his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf, the dpa reported.
"The two leaders hoped the IPI project will promote peace and friendship," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters after the meeting.
Foreign ministers of both Islamic republics were asked to finalize the schedule for Musharraf's visit to Tehran to sign the agreement on the more than 2,000-kilometre-long pipeline from Iran's South Pars gas field to Pakistan and India.
Ahmadinejad was also scheduled to discuss the project with India, where he is to also have a brief stopover later this week.
India has reportedly been under pressure from Washington to opt out of the project because the United States believes it breaches its Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which forbids more than 20 million dollars of investment in Iranian oil and gas projects.
Washington's objections have caused a yearlong halt in the pipeline negotiations. However, a breakthrough came when Islamabad and New Delhi on Friday agreed upon the fundamental principles governing the project, work on which was expected to be started in 2009.
Ahmadinejad and Musharraf also decided to go ahead with Pakistan's plan to import 1,100 megawatts of electricity from Iran to meet its growing demand for power, particularly in the south-western coastal areas, and reduce its recurring power outages.
Reviewing the security situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, both leaders said peace in the militancy-hit country was vital for stability in the region.
Earlier, Ahmadinejad received a warm welcome on his arrival at the Chaklala air base on the outskirts of Islamabad. He was later received at the presidential building by Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The visiting president held a separate meeting with Gilani to discuss economic relations between their two countries. They focussed on greater trade to usher in an era of prosperity in the region.
"We desire to strengthen our relationship with Pakistan," Ahmadinejad said.
He also pledged to assist the Pakistani government in overcoming its prevailing food and energy crisis.