Iran and Pakistan have signed a preliminary agreement for the construction of a 400,000 b/d capacity refinery at the Pakistani port of Gwadar. IRNA reported on 22 February that Islamabad and Tehran have “reached an agreement according to which Iran will help Pakistan construct an oil refinery.” Iran has promised to supply crude oil to the plant. Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Rostam Qasemi said that Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari would visit Iran soon to finalize the agreement. While the announcement reflects the growing energy debate between Tehran and Islamabad, the lack of progress on the Pakistani section of the much-discussed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline suggests the interest may be one-sided.

Iran has in the past held talks with other countries about joint refinery projects – in August 1996 Iran and Pakistan agreed to build a 120,000 b/d refinery near Karachi to process heavy Iranian crude oil, but this plan was shelved (MEES, 29 September 1997). However, since the appointment in 2005 of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, Iran’s plans for overseas refineries seemed to have increased in proportion to Tehran’s rhetoric in the face of tightening sanctions. Iran has since then made preliminary agreements and/or held talks to build refineries in: Syria (with Venezuela); Malaysia; Sri Lanka; Indonesia; Senegal; and Singapore and China. (CONTINUED - 275 WORDS)