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Iran: Ignore US opposition to Pakistani gas deal

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's top leader told the visiting Pakistani president on Wednesday that the two countries should ignore U.S. opposition to construction of a gas pipeline.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran was the only secure source of energy that can meet Pakistan's needs.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was visiting Tehran to finalize a long-awaited gas pipeline deal with Iran.

The U.S. is against the project because it wants to isolate Iran economically over fears that the country might ultimately be able to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

"One should resolutely pass these objections," Iran's state TV quoted Khamenei as telling Zardari. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is the only secure source of energy in this region and we are ready to meet Pakistan's needs in this field."

Pakistani leaders have vowed to press ahead with the pipeline despite U.S. opposition, saying the deal is vital to supplying gas to the energy-starved country. Iranian media say Tehran has agreed to provide a $500 million loan to help finance construction of the pipeline on the Pakistan side of their shared border.

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