A pipeline that would supply natural gas from Iran to South Asia, but that is opposed by Washington, is critical to Pakistan's economic growth and political stability, the country's prime minister said Friday. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan is currently negotiating rates for buying and distributing the gas by pipeline with Iran and neighboring India, its longstanding rival, to which the line would extend. Aziz said he believed that despite official objections, the United States was sympathetic to the needs of Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against Islamic terrorists. He said he did not think proceeding with the pipeline would damage those ties. "I think Washington understands that our energy needs are very acute, and energy security is critical to Pakistan's stability and growth, and that's all we are doing," Aziz said in an interview on the sidelines of a regional forum in the southern Chinese resort of Boao.