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Pakistan, Iran sign pacts to strengthen relations

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, MARCH 6. Pakistan and Iran have signed a series of agreements to enhance economic cooperation, improve communication and boost bilateral trade.

"We have agreed to upgrade relations in political and economic spheres on a sustainable basis," the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, told a joint press conference along with visiting Iranian first Vice-President, Mohammad Reza Aref .

This is the visit first by a senior Iranian leader here after Pakistan launched a probe on a request from U.N. nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran received nuclear know-how from Pakistan.

Supposed disclosures by Iran have angered a section of the civil society and press which sees it as betrayal by another Islamic country. Much to the surprise of every one in fact this was the first question at the news conference.

Asked by a Pakistan journalist if Iran has not embarrassed Pakistan by its disclosures to IAEA the visiting Iranian leader clearly appeared uncomfortable. Initially he said that Iranian Foreign Office spokesman has already `contradicted' the report. However he went on to add that nuclear programme of Iran was for peaceful purposes and it had acquired material and know-how necessary from the open market implying that Pakistan Government had nothing to do with it. Mr. Jamali and Mr. Aerf witnessed the signing of seven agreements following a joint ministerial commission meeting here.

The Iranian Minister of Transport, Ahmed Khorram, led his country's delegation at the commission while the Pakistan Finance Minister, Shaukat Aziz, led his side. Mr. Jamali said he held talks with the Iranian leader covering regional and international issues, including efforts to peacefully resolve the longstanding Kashmir issue with India, the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and West Asia.

Pakistan and Iran have "resolved to work together to further strengthen relations in the years ahead," Mr. Jamali said. Pakistan Prime Minister claimed that there was convergence in the views of Iran and Pakistan on all major issues.

The accords include establishment of a communication and financial infrastructure between the two countries.

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