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"We offered to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor".

Iran would not allow anybody to hurt Pakistan from its territory, much like Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against Iran, he said, while delivering a lecture at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) yesterday, according to Dawn newspaper. As India recently signed a lease to manage operations at the port, the decision to join hands with Iran for the development of the project is not a straightforward one. India is likely to seek a clarification from the Iranians over the issue.

Frequent ceasefire violations have been reported on the Line of Control and Working Boundary by India; in fact the highest number of breaches took place past year since the 2003 ceasefire accord took effect leaving 87 people dead. Pakistan must be cognisant that Iran's offering may be a political move to placate matters resulting from its decision to work with India.

Zarif also raised the issue of cooperation between the Chabahar and Gwadar ports during his meetings with foreign minister Asif and National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua.

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Pakistan and Iran have had close ties in the past but recent regional alignments and Pakistan's tilt toward Saudi Arabia perturbed Iran, particularly the assignment of a Pakistani former army chief to head a Saudi-led 39-nation Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism.

Lodhi also said that the people of Pakistan have great admiration for the people of Iran. These regions need to be linked by sea and land routes, he said.

"We are taking measures to do that and there is an open invitation to Pakistan to participate in that", Zarif said. The first phase of the Chabahar port in south-east Iran, which India is developing, was inaugurated in December past year.

The invitation extended to Pakistan by the Iranian foreign minister comes at the back of Indian officials repeatedly stating that the port is of strategic importance to India as it will allow India to bypass Pakistan in accessing Afghanistan and central Asia. The visiting Foreign Minister is being accompanied by a large trade delegation from Iran.

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