TEHRAN, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Iran's ruling cleric Ali Khamenei said the country was ready to support Pakistani efforts to secure a reliable source of natural gas.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met in Tehran with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss progress of a pipeline, which is planned to run from the South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf.
Once dubbed the Peace Pipeline, the long-planned pipeline has drawn criticism from a U.S. government wary of the revenue it could generate from sanction-strapped Iran.
Khamenei said, following Zardari's visit, that Islamabad should ignore U.S. concerns in favor of secure energy.
"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," he was quoted by the semiofficial Fars News Agency as saying.
The National Iranian Gas Co. said this week it should take less than two years to build the pipeline through Pakistan.
U.S. officials favor a rival project from Turkmenistan, which has the support of the Asian Development Bank. Iran, for its part, said it would provide $500 million to help Pakistan build the pipeline on its side of the border.