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Iranian FM Zarif Stops in Pakistan Ahead of India Visit as Talk of Nuclear Arms Race Looms in Region

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, paid a visit to Pakistan on Thursday before heading to New Delhi, India, on a string of trips to nations Iran is attempting to strengthen ties with following the successful completion of the nuclear accords.

The Pakistan visit signals a possible attempt at wooing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Iran’s favor over Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations that are reportedly in talks to purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan.

The meeting was loaded with emphasis on the deepening of bilateral economic ties between both Islamic Republics, including restarting work on the stalled Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project. Pakistan is energy-deprived and clinging strongly to completion of the pipeline to help. “PM Nawaz and I discussed to increase cooperation between the two countries in sectors ranging from oil to gas, energy, transportation and others,” Zarif said, according to the Times of India

Pakistan’s Tribune reported that Zarif called upon Pakistan to work with Iran to eliminate sectarianism, terrorism, and extremism from both the region and the world. Both nations are also facing a common threat from the Islamic State (ISIS).

At a joint news conference with PM Sharif’s national security adviser, Sartaj Aziz, later that afternoon, Zarif said, “Iran believes in economic development in Pakistan’s Balochistan province as well as in our own Sistan and Baluchestan province, as it is fundamental to fighting poverty and extremism in the region.”

According to the Pakistani government’s official radio station, Zarif reportedly said that no country, including India, could undermine the importance of Pakistan for Iran and anything that threatens the security of Pakistan is a threat to Iran as well.

Experts have suggested the Iran deal will ignite a nuclear arms race in the region, with Sunni-majority nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt already seeking to add to their own arsenal with nuclear weapons to compete with their Shia adversary.

Saudi Arabia is currently the top contender to purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan and might even be able to buy a bomb from them soon, based on previous agreements the two countries have made.

Zarif is scheduled to visit Russia next week.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.

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