Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari have officially inaugurated the final construction phase of the multi-billion-dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
Ahmadinejad and Zardari attended the ceremony on the Iran-Pakistan border on Monday.
Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi and Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also attended the ceremony, which marks the start of the construction of the pipeline, intended to transfer natural gas from Iran to energy-hungry Pakistan.
The United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Mohammad Bin Dha'en Al Hameli also attended the ceremony.
During a short meeting prior to the inaugural ceremony of the pipeline, Ahmadinejad and Zardari said the project would promote peace, security and progress in the Iranian, Pakistani as well as other regional nations.
The project will help enhance economic, political and security ties between Tehran and Islamabad, the two leaders stressed.
They also underlined the need for tapping into all of the existing capacities between Iran and Pakistan to promote the progress and welfare of the two countries.
On March 2, Zardari reiterated that Islamabad would not stop the pipeline project at any cost.
The Pakistani president stressed that his government would continue to pursue the construction of the gas pipeline despite threats and pressure from the US.
Washington has repeatedly voiced its discontent with the joint project, but Pakistan has dismissed rumors that it might pull out of the project amid pressures by the United States.
Pakistan faces a crushing energy crisis, which has caused difficulties in financing the pipeline that stretches from the border between the two countries to Nawabshah region in Pakistan.
The 1,600-kilometer pipeline would enable the export of 21.5 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan on a daily basis.
Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its soil.
Tehran-based Tadbir Energy Development Group will reportedly undertake all engineering procurement and construction work for the first segment of the project, which starts from the Iran-Pakistan border and costs around USD 250 million.
The Iranian firm will also carry out the second segment of the project, and extend the financing later to USD 500 million.
The remaining amount is expected to be generated through Pakistan’s Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC).