Pakistan hosts summit involving Afghanistan, Iran - Emirates24|7

Pakistan hosts summit involving Afghanistan, Iran

Pakistan will next week host the leaders of Afghanistan and Iran at a summit devoted to counter-terrorism, the foreign ministry in Islamabad said on Thursday.

The talks come at a time of heightened tension between Iran and the United States, notably over speculation about a possible Israeli attack against Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

It also comes with Afghanistan keen to start peace talks with Taliban insurgents. Kabul is reportedly concerned about being sidelined by contacts between the US and the Taliban.

"It is a two-day summit, to be held on February 16 and 17 in Islamabad," ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters.

It will be attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he said.

"The trilateral summit is important for the leaders to get together and discuss important regional issues pertaining to counter-terrorism and organised crimes including drug trafficking," Basit said.

Despite strong US objections, Pakistan says it is pressing ahead with a multi-billion-dollar project to build a gas pipeline to import fuel from Iran.

"We are looking to complete the pipeline project by 2014 to meet our energy requirements. It is important for our economic growth," Basit said.

In the deal signed in 2010, Iran has agreed to supply natural gas to its eastern neighbour from 2014.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama unveiled new sanctions on Iran's central bank in an effort to force it to reverse course on its nuclear programme.

Asked about US sanctions, Basit said Pakistan opposed any new conflict in the region and called for dialogue.

Islamabad is moving towards a detente in its own relations with Washington, which took a drastic turn for the worse over last year's covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden and air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

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