Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari travelled to Iran today for a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a controversial gas pipeline that has met with sharp US opposition.
The Iran-Pakistan pipeline is intended to help the latter overcome its mushrooming energy needs at a time when blackouts and energy shortages are on the rise.
But there are serious doubts about how Pakistan will finance the $1.5 billion (£1bn) needed to construct the pipeline and whether it can go through with the project without facing US sanctions.
today's ceremony comes just days before the Pakistan government's term is set to expire.
As a result, critics have suggested that the event could be designed to win votes by making the ruling Pakistan People's Party look like it is addressing the energy crisis.
It also allows the government to publicly thumb its nose at the US, which is widely unpopular in Pakistan.
The US has opposed the pipeline while also championing a number of electricity-generation projects within Pakistan, including helping to renovate hydropower dams.
Iran has already finished its side of the pipeline, which travels 1,150 kilometres (715 miles) from the gas fields to the Iran-Pakistan border.
The Pakistan segment of the pipeline is expected to be about 485 miles and gas is due to start flowing in by the end of 2014.
The US has repeatedly attacked the project.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "If this deal is finalised, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act.
"We've made that absolutely clear to our Pakistani counterparts."
Under US regulations, sales of technology or equipment that allow Iran to develop its energy sector are barred, as are most transactions involving oil or other fuels.
The regulations also bar business dealings with Iranian financial institutions.
Possible penalties include barring the entity violating the sanctions from receiving US military equipment or making it impossible to do business with US banks.
But, rhetoric aside, it remains to be seen whether Pakistan - an important ally of the US in its Afghanistan military adventure - would ever actually face US sanctions.
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