Iran and Pakistan have started several days of crucial talks to finalise a contract for the construction of a billion-dollar gas pipeline project between the two countries. The talks, which began in Islamabad on Monday and would run for three to four days, focus on Iranian company Tabdir Energy Development Group’s decision to build the Pakistani section of the pipeline under an engineering, construction and procurement (ECP) contract. After the finalization of the contract, Tadbir Energy will start laying 781 kilometres of pipeline inside Pakistan. Pakistan has constantly dismissed rumors that it might pull out of the project amid renewed efforts by the United States to convince the country to abandon the pipeline. On January 29, an Iranian deputy oil minister said Tehran would finance and help build the 700-kilometer section of the pipeline on the Pakistani side. “Aside from a 250-million-dollar loan, Iran will also provide the supplies and equipment necessary for the construction of the part of the pipeline on Pakistani soil,” Javad Owji, who is also managing director of the National Iranian Gas Company, added. The pipeline, projected to cost about USD1.2-1.5 billion, would enable the export of 21.5 million cubic meters (mcm) of Iran’s natural gas to Pakistan on a daily basis. Iran has already built more than 900 kilometres of the pipeline on its soil.