LAHORE – President Asif Ali Zardari has called for stepping up efforts for early completion of all the bilateral projects of Pakistan and Iran, especially Pak-Iran gas pipeline.

At a meeting with Iranian Majlis Shoora Speaker Ali Ardeshir Larijani at Bilawal House here Wednesday, President Zardari said Pakistan attached great importance to early completion of Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project in view of the energy crisis in the country.

The president also reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to implement expeditiously all mega projects, including the Pak-Iran gas pipeline, 1,000mw Taftan-Quetta transmission line, 400mw Gwadar power supply project, Noshki-Dalbandin highway and Quetta-Taftan track, stressing the need for devising appropriate mechanisms to finance these critical projects.

The Iranian dignitary is visiting Pakistan for participating in the meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the ECO countries in Islamabad. The president lauded establishment of Parliamentary Assembly of the ECO and expressed the hope that by promoting interaction among the elected representatives, the forum would help strengthen democracies in the member countries and promote people-to-people contacts. He said the forum would also enable parliamentarians to identify new avenues of cooperation among the ECO countries.

In addition to Pak-Iran bilateral ties, discussion was also held on the regional situation and means to promote trade and commerce between the two countries. The president called for employing collective strength of Muslims and stressed the need to shun violence to meet the regional challenges. “We have to take control of our own affairs and find our own solutions to the problems”, he added.

Zardari reiterated Pakistan’s support for an Afghan-led reconciliation process and said the release of prisoners recently by Pakistan proved its sincerity. He also called for greater coordination between the two countries for promoting peace and stability.

He said Pakistan and Iran enjoyed deep-rooted fraternal relations. He added the people of Pakistan had special attachment with their Iranian brethren and highly valued their ties with them.

The president underscored the need for concrete measures to further promote mutual cooperation and to take full advantage of historical, cultural and brotherly ties of the people of the two countries. In view of the current low level of bilateral trade, President Zardari called for measures to realise the true potential of bilateral trade.

He said improved visa facilitation, opening of new border posts at Mand-Pishin and Gabd-Reemdan and enhancing connectivity were critical for greater economic interaction between the two countries.

He also felicitated the visiting Iranian delegation on their national day which was recently celebrated and asked Ali Larijani to convey his greetings and regards to the supreme leader and president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile, President Zardari left for Karachi via PIA commercial flight PK-305 as part of his austerity campaign.

Ali Larijani was accompanied by Shaheen Mohammad Sadeghi, parliament member and head of Presiding Board of Islamic Consultative Assembly, Gholamreza Asadullahei, parliament member and head of Iran-Pakistan Friendship Group, Mehdi Sanaei, parliament and National Security and Foreign Policy Commission member, Ms Haleema Aali, parliament member, Mohammad Jaffery, adviser and head of the Speaker’s Secretariat of Islamic Consultative Assembly, Alireza Haghighian, ambassador of Iran to Pakistan, and others.

The Pakistani side included PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and Secretary General Salman Faruqui.