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WASHINGTON – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has signaled that he intends to ignore Western sanctions imposed on Iran to try to deter its nuclear weapons program and instead will fast-track a number of cooperative projects that could amount to billions of dollars, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

On a recent visit to Islamabad, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inked numerous agreements on natural gas pipeline and a number of bilateral electricity projects. They also will use barter and currency swaps in their bilateral trade, a currency arrangement that gets around sanctions that until now have had to rely on the U.S. dollar and the European Union’s euro.

For Pakistan, whose political relations with the United States are at an all-time low, the deals will be especially lucrative, since Iran has pledged to increase trade to some $10 billion just in the coming months.

In turn, Iran will reduce tariffs and increase its import of foodstuffs from Pakistan to help offset the economic effects of U.S. and E.U. sanctions. Except for the issue of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan and Iran have always had good bilateral relations, although the government in Islamabad which is Sunni has tended to side with Sunni Saudi Arabia in the sectarian Sunni vs. Shi’ite rift between Shi’ite Iran and the Saudi kingdom.

In addition to proximity, Pakistan’s siding with Iran when it comes to Western sanctions against Iran is to send a signal especially to the U.S. that it will side with Iran. It also serves as a protest to continued U.S. use of drones to attack perceived Islamist militant concentrations in Pakistan, prompting outcries from the population.

Pakistan has nuclear weapons but isn’t a signatory to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Yet, the U.S. seeks to draw closer to Islamabad. On the other hand, Iran is a signatory to the NPT but Western sanctions are designed to economically choke Iran because it insists on continuing its nuclear program, a right Tehran has as a signatory to the NPT, with proper safeguards.

At the same time, Israel with its nuclear weapons arsenal isn’t a signatory to the NPT but is raising the prospect of attacking Iran’s nuclear sites.

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