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Pakistan, US still far from deal: FO

06 April, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan indicated on Thursday it was still far from reaching an agreement with the United States on how to patch up turbulent relations after a series of major crises.

One day after a senior US diplomat held a further round of talks in Islamabad, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said both sides were still at odds over US drone strikes and NATO attacks that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit confirmed that both sides were discussing a framework agreement that would tax NATO convoys transiting to Afghanistan and resume compensation payments to Pakistan for fighting terrorists.

"We are discussing all these matters but the final outcome hinges on policy guidelines that we will get from the parliament."

Although high-level contacts have now resumed, a formal resetting of the relationship is on hold until Pakistani parliament finishes debating recommendations on how best to protect Islamabad's interests.

No timeline has been announced for the debate to finish. It has already been significantly delayed and with Pakistan in an election year, few politicians want to be seen as accommodating the US.

"We would like to put back our engagement to a level where it has been but it all depends on what our parliament says," Basit said.

He said Pakistan was unhappy over a US decision not to pursue disciplinary charges over the November strikes, which saw the Pentagon blame both sides.

"We have demanded that action should be taken against those involved in the attack but the United States has a different position," Basit said.

"This issue is also under discussion between the two countries," he added, without giving further details.

US Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides, who visited Islamabad on Wednesday, asked Pakistan to address US concerns about security and called for a "balanced" relationship that works through the countries' differences.

Basit said, "We are looking forward for constructive engagement between the two leaders in New Delhi." He said the two leaders would discuss all the issues that continue to take priority in bilateral relations. He said the meeting between President Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would provide an opportunity to contribute Pakistan's vision of intra-regional cooperation to ensure peace and security in the region.

To a question about US bounty announced on the arrest of Hafiz Saeed and Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, Basit said Pakistan had adopted a legal and principled position on the issue.

The spokesman said, "Pakistan will not accept any pressure on this issue."

He said Pakistan had clarified its position and asked the US to provide concrete evidence to proceed legally.

End.

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