WASHINGTON - A deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in return for ending economic sanctions against Tehran, now being negotiated by the Obama administration and its international partners, would be seen as “extremely positive” by Pakistan and many other countries in the region, Pakistani Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani was quoted as saying in American news media reports.

The ambassador was speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by Christian Science Monitor as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warning in his address to the US Congress that Iran’s neighbours feared the potential nuclear agreement.

Jilani said a number of bilateral projects with Iran, including a major natural gas pipeline, have had to be put on hold because of the international sanctions targeting Tehran, and could be quickly revived if the nuclear deal eases the restrictions on doing business with Tehran. “Our region has seen a lot of tension in the last several years,”  Jilani said, noting that Pakistan shares a nearly 600-mile border with Iran. “Nobody can afford many more new tensions.”

The ambassador said there were “tremendous opportunities for economic cooperation” between Iran and Pakistan, and that ending Iran’s diplomatic isolation would also “fit well with regional connectivity” linking South Asia to markets in the Middle East.

Iran and Pakistan had originally hoped to inaugurate the 1,700-mile pipeline to transport Iranian natural gas by the end of 2014, but the sanctions and pressure by the Obama administration have repeatedly led Islamabad to delay, the report said.

Pakistani Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan told Pakistani newspapers earlier this week that Pakistan has not abandoned the pipeline, but was waiting for the Iranian sanctions to be lifted before going forward.

On other issues, the ambassador said Pakistan would welcome a slowing of President Obama’s announced withdrawal of US combat forces from Afghanistan in light of the increased militant activity along the border as international forces have been reduced in eastern Afghanistan. Jilani said Pakistan’s military has enjoyed marked success in a “surge” of forces to deal with militants in the restive North Waziristan area, adding that relations with Kabul have improved with the replacement of Hamid Karzai by new President Ashraf Ghani last year.