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Iranian President in Pakistan for Visit on Security Issues - 2002-12-23

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has arrived in Pakistan on a three day official visit focusing on regional security issues. The two countries hope to improve relations after years of tension over the issue of Afghanistan.

President Mohammad Khatami is making his first visit to Pakistan. After arriving in the Pakistani capital, the Iranian leader held official talks with President Pervez Musharraf. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, General Musharraf described the talks as positive.

"[We] discussed all issues, international issues, regional issues and bilateral issues. And I am very glad to say that there is unanimity of views on all these," he said.

Speaking through a translator, President Khatami said tensions between Pakistan and India over Kashmir as well as the situation in Afghanistan came under discussion with President Musharraf.

"Of course we believe that our good relations with India and Pakistan will play an important role in defusing tensions in the region," he said. "And security and stability of Afghanistan is very much important for Iran and for Pakistan and we are going to help the country to move in that direction."

President Khatami will hold a second round of talks on Tuesday with the newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali.

The two sides are also expected to discuss the U.S. led anti-terrorism war in neighboring Afghanistan.

Relations between Islamabad and Tehran hit a low point during Taleban rule in Afghanistan. Islamabad supported the hard line Islamic rulers while Tehran favored its opponents, the Northern Alliance.

Iranian officials say, now, President Khatami's visit will open a new chapter in friendly relations between the two Islamic nations.

Another top issue will be Iran's proposal to develop a $3.5 billion gas pipeline that would run through Pakistan into rival, India.

Both South Asian nations support developing the gas pipeline, but their dispute over Kashmir presents an obstacle.

President Khatami is the first Iranian leader to visit Pakistan since 1992. He is scheduled to visit India next month.