ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif informed the National Assembly on Tuesday that the Indian lobby and a former Pakistani ambassador to the US were lobbying against the deal to sell F16 fighter jets to Pakistan. However, he said the US government had agreed in principle to deliver these jets to Pakistan. Asif said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held encouraging talks with Saudi leadership to defuse the tension with Iran and there was good response from Riyadh. In his statement before the lower house of parliament, he said the prime minister held talks with the Iranian leadership on Tuesday in the same spirit, and expressed the hope that his visit would be successful. He said the aim of the visit was to defuse tension between the two Muslim countries, adding that it also aimed at removing irritants in the unity of Muslim Ummah. He pointed out that Pakistan was playing the role of a mediator, which was also the desire of parliament. He said with the success of this mission, Pakistan’s positive image would be promoted in the world. Referring to the 34-member alliance of Muslim countries, the minister said it was still evolving and its scope and participation was being discussed. He said the matter came under discussion during the visits of Saudi foreign and defence ministers. He made it clear that it was not an alliance against Iran rather it was an alliance against terrorism and had no military objectives and aimed at preparing a joint counter-terrorism narrative. He said this alliance and Pakistan’s role in it should not be prejudged. Parliament would be taken into confidence on the issue, he added. Meanwhile, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the House that it was just a coalition of 34-member states and not an alliance. He said it was up to every member country to decide whether to take part in any activity of the alliance such as intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism training, capacity building. The alliance is still at an evolving stage, he added. The adviser also clarified a news item in a section of the press regarding statement of the foreign secretary about the coalition, saying the foreign secretary had not stated that he had no information rather said they were getting information about the issue. He said that in the last meeting of OIC in Kuwait a comprehensive discussion was held on counter terrorism, training, capacity building, IED training. Sartaj Aziz said there should be no misunderstanding about Pakistan and Iran relations and added that so far no negative reaction had come from Iran. He said he had phoned the Iranian foreign minister, who stated that the prime minister was most welcome in Iran. The Iranian minister’s response was very positive as both the countries had cordial relations, he added. Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan had a balanced and neutral policy and had cordial relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. Earlier, the defence minister told the House that Pakistan had a defence agreement with Saudi Arabia since 1980 and in 2007 counter-terrorism training was added to it. He said that presently 1,125 officers and personnel of armed forces were deployed in Saudi Arabia and basic purpose of their deployment was training. PPP’s Sayed Naveed Qamar said Pakistan could not afford to become party in the tension between the two Islamic states. PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood said that there must be clarity on the issue, as Pakistan had good relations with both the Islamic states. He said neutrality on the issue was a must and it should be handled carefully. Syed Raza Abidi of the MQM said both were Muslim states and the government should adopt a positive approach on the issue. He said the prime minister should take parliament into confidence on the issue. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had on Monday expressed deep concern over the escalation of tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, calling for resolution of differences through peaceful means in the larger interest of Ummah, particularly during these challenging times. In his meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the prime minister recalled Pakistan’s consistent policy of promoting brotherhood among member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation, said a joint statement issued by the Foreign Office on Monday. He said Pakistan has always expressed readiness to offer its good offices to brotherly Muslim countries for the resolution of their differences through dialogue and reconciliation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led a delegation to Saudi Arabia, including Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua and Special Assistant to PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi.