WASHINGTON - The United States says it’s too early in the development of a natural gas pipeline planned from Iran to Pakistan to state what action the US government would take against Islamabad.

“This is a deal that has been talked about, come and gone many times, so we first make the point to Pakistan about whether they really think that Iran is going to be a reliable partner in this,” State Department Spokesperson said while responding to a question at the daily briefing on Wednesday.

According to press reports, Iran has started work on its section of a pipeline that would stretch from the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf to Pakistan. Both sides have expressed interest in the project, though Washington has stated its strong opposition. Nuland said the US recognised Pakistan was facing an energy crisis. Washington, she said, was prepared to work with Islamabad to secure other sources of energy.

“I’m not going to prejudge what might be sanctionable on a deal that is just prospective at this point and where tenders have only just gone out,” she said, when an Indian journalist drew her attention to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent threat to impose sanctions against Pakistan if the pipeline project went ahead.

“Our point is to say that we think this is a bad idea and that there are other options,” the spokesperson added.

Pakistan announced recently it had offered Germany’s ILF Consulting Engineering a $250 million contract for part of the natural gas pipeline.

The US backs a rival project that would stretch from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Security concerns in Afghanistan, however, weigh on that project’s development.

Questioned about the parliamentary review of the US-Pakistan relations, Nuland said, “Our understanding is it’s going to be a little bit of time yet, but it sounds like that’s a subject that you might have more information from the Pakistani side. We have said that we will respect the time that it takes them to do this, and we look forward to hearing from them when they’re ready.

Meanwhile, a top US General has said he plans to travel to Pakistan in next 10 days for talks to reopen Nato supply routes to Afghanistan.

General James Mattis, Commander of US Central Command, said he planned to make the visit to hold talks with Pakistani military leaders. This would be the first high-level visit of a US military leader after the November 26 border incident in which 24 Pak soldiers were killed which led to closing down of supply routes.