WASHINGTON - The United States has warned Islamabad that Pak-Iran gas pipeline project, if finalised, would raise serious concerns under the US Iran Sanctions Act, saying that has been made ‘absolutely clear’ to Pakistan.

“If a deal were finalised for the proposed Pakistan-Iran pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under the Iran Sanctions Act," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters at the daily press briefing. Pointedly asked what kind of sanctions the US intended to impose on Pakistan if the project went ahead, he said "We’re still talking about something that’s hypothetical. We’d have to monitor and see exactly what sort of infraction it would be. But I can look into – see if we can get you a technical readout of how that works."

The $7.5 billion pipeline, designed to carry 21.5 million cubic meters of natural gas a day from Iran’s giant South Pars gas field, will cross the international border and continue into Pakistan’s south-western Balochistan province. President Asif Ali Zardari returned to Pakistan on Thursday after a two-day visit to Iran for finalising the pipeline deal and sorting out financing and technical issues. Work on the project is due to start on March 11. “Of course, Washington will look at it,” Ventrell said in response to a question about Pakistan's decision to go ahead with the project despite US opposition.

“As a member of the international community, a current member of the IAEA board of governors and the UN Security Council, Pakistan has an obligation to join multilateral efforts to convince Iran to adhere to international nuclear obligations,” the spokesman said.

The US, he said, continues to discuss Pakistan’s energy needs, especially through its bilateral mission in Islamabad and contributing to the alleviation of its energy crisis.

“So it’s something we’re working with our Pakistani counterparts on. They know our position, and we’ll continue to discuss this with our Pakistani counterparts,” he added.