ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan has conveyed to the United States that it was against any attack on Iran, officials said on Sunday.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan had spoken to both the US and Iran over the issue and urged restraint.

“We have conveyed our concerns to the US. We believe any attack on Iran will be destructive for the regional peace,” said one official and added: “The US claims Iran is intensifying tension.”

Another official said that Pakistan had contacted Iran and advised restraint. “We have urged both the sides to ensure peace,” he maintained.

Earlier, the US government approved the deployment of a Patriot missile defence battery and another warship to the Middle East amid increasing tensions between the US and Iran.

The USS Arlington, which transports marines, amphibious vehicles, and rotary aircraft, as well as the Patriot missiles, will join the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which already passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on May 9, and is currently  sailing in the Red Sea.

The US says the deployments of military hardware to the region comes in response to “heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations.”

The Patriot missile system is a defence mechanism against aircraft, drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, and is currently deployed in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“The Acting Secretary of Defense has approved the movement of USS Arlington (LPD-24) and a Patriot battery to US Central Command as part of the command’s original request for forces from earlier this week,” a Pentagon statement said.

Last week, a US air force bomber task force, including B-52 bombers, also arrived at the US airbase Al Udeid in Qatar.

In a statement, US Central Command said: “The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies. Due to operational security, we will not discuss timelines or location of forces. The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region.”

In an advisory posted on May 9, the US Maritime Administration said that since early May there had been an increased possibility of Iran or its regional proxies taking action against US and partner interests.

These included, MARAD said, oil production infrastructure, after Tehran threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz chokepoint in the Arabian Gulf through which about a fifth of oil consumed globally passes.

“Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf.” MARAD said, adding: “Reporting indicates heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and interests.”

Tensions between Iran and the US have escalated sharply in recent weeks. The US unilaterally backed out of a 2015 nuclear pact in May 2018, effectively giving countries worldwide a year to stop buying Iranian oil or face US sanctions, which Washington says are aimed at completely choking off Iranian crude exports.

Washington last month had blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. US officials say they have detected indications that Iran could be preparing a military response.

Prominent Iranian cleric Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad said: “Their billion dollar fleet can be destroyed with one missile. If they attempt any move, they will ... (face) dozens of missiles because at that time (government) officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei).”

Over the weekend, thousands of Iranians took part in marches on to support the government’s decision to reduce limits on its nuclear programme.

Iran has threatened to go further if other parties to the 2015 deal - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - fail to shield it from US sanctions.

Amid US-Iran tension, Pakistan aims to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project soon despite Washington’s reservations.

Islamabad has decided to send demarches to US, European council and other related forums on the IP project. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already asked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to resolve the irritants to complete the project.

For years, Pakistan and Iran have been working to complete the IP gas pipeline project soon to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis. IP pipeline project - also called Peace Pipeline – is aimed at constructing pipeline from Iran’s South Pars fields in the Persian Gulf to Pakistan’s major cities of Karachi and Multan.

The pipeline can carry 110 million cubic meters of gas a day. Iran will initially transfer 30 million cubic meters of gas per day to Pakistan, but will eventually increase the gas transfer to 60 million cubic meters per day.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s April visit improved the tense situation between Iran and Pakistan. In a joint statement issued after the high-level meetings, the two sides “called for swift implementation of bilateral agreements as a step towards realizing this important goal.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan. The dates for the visit will be worked out through diplomatic channels.