ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan says the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has "no more interest" in funding a project to build a natural-gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.
A Pakistani Finance Ministry spokesman said on March 14 that the Chinese institution had been negotiating with Pakistan's Habib Bank over financing for the Pakistani section of the pipeline. He added that he did not know why the Chinese bank had pulled out of the deal.
Pakistani leaders have vowed to press ahead with the pipeline despite U.S. opposition to the project. Islamabad says the pipeline is vital for the supply of gas Pakistan.
A Finance Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the Chinese bank was not the ministry's "final option" for funding.
The source said Iran had already offered to invest in the project on the Pakistani side, and Islamabad has "options to talk to the governments of China and Russia."
The same official said an exploratory committee had been formed with Petroleum Minister Aasim Hussain as chairman and other members including Water and Power Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and State Bank of Pakistan Governor Yasin Anwar, along with lower-level officials from other ministries.
"They will be reviewing the other options," the source said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on March 14 of the Chinese bank's apparent withdrawal that "We cannot afford to be selective in pursuing energy sources and we will continue to do whatever we consider to be in our national interests."
Khar said the pipeline was a "fairly viable project and we hope there will not be any problem in trying to find ways and means of ensuring its funding."
The United States has warned Pakistan and any companies assisting in construction of the pipeline that they could face sanctions if they move forward on the project.
Washington and the European Union are seeking to stop Iran's export of petrochemical products in a bid to force Iran to cooperate with UN demands it prove its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes.
With AP reporting