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Pakistan distances itself from Western efforts to punish Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is pushing for greater collaboration between Islamabad and Tehran in order to reach a targeted $10 billion in trade between the two countries, reported The Pakistan Tribune.
Ashraf, who was elected prime minister in late June, told Iranian Ambassador Alireza Haghinghian in Islamabad on Wednesday that the two countries need to step up work on joint ventures, including the controversial Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, according to Iran's state-run Press TV.
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Ashraf's remarks are likely to frustrate the United States, which opposes the pipeline deal amid renewed efforts to economically isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program. Western countries accuse the Islamic Republic of using the program to make a bomb; Iran denies this.
Ashraf on Wednesday renewed calls for greater bilateral trade with Iran, stressing the two nations' shared historical, cultural and religious traditions, according to the Tribune.
Pakistani and Iranian officials in late May agreed to pursue more joint projects and step up bilateral trade deals, concluding that the "volume of mutual trade between Pakistan and Iran does not match the level of their brotherly relations," as described by Pakistan's The Nation.
Ashraf's comments follow a similar call by the country's senate head, Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, who visited Iran last week, reported Pakistan Today.
Bukhari told Iranian officials in the northeastern city of Mashhad that the two countries could boost trade from its current level of $1.5 billion to at least $5 billion per year, according to the report.