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Friday, October 23, 2009

Holbrooke Responds to Pakistani Concerns

WASHINGTON, Oct 23: US special envoy Richard Holbrooke assured Islamabad on Friday that there were no conditions on Pakistan in the new US defence authorisation bill, which has provision of at least $2.3 billion of military assistance to Pakistan in the next fiscal year.

The US Senate passed the bill on Thursday, sending it to President Barack Obama for signing it into a law.

At a hurriedly called news conference at the State Department, Mr Holbrooke also defended the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, saying that it was “a great piece of legislation”.

“In the end, it got caught up in domestic Pakistani politics … it was misunderstood and perhaps inadequately explained,” he added. “As far as I am concerned that issue is over.”

Mr Holbrooke claimed that the defence bill was being “wilfully distorted” by some people in Pakistan. “There are no conditions on Pakistan. There are reporting requirements on us. And there’s been a total and, I believe, wilful distortion of this among some people in Pakistan,” Mr Holbrooke said in response to a question.

“Well, then, let me tell you, there are no conditions in this bill. There are no conditions. I don’t want to get into legalisms here, but there are requirements on us,” he asserted. “The Congress wants the secretary of defence, in the case of this bill (defence authorisation bill) and the secretary of state, in the case of Kerry-Lugar-Berman, to report to them on certain issues before and during the process of releasing the funds,” Mr Holbrooke said.

“So this is a pro-Pakistan bill. And I pray that your -- colleagues in Islamabad report it accurately so we don’t have another misunderstanding,” Mr Holbrooke said when a Pakistani journalist asked if the defence authorisation bill imposes conditions on Pakistan, despite the fact that Pakistan Army is running successful military operation in Waziristan and other tribal regions of the country.

Mr Holbrooke also hailed Pakistan’s anti-terrorism resolve, noting that “there’s a connection between the Pakistani offensive (in South Waziristan) and the terrorist attacks” on targets inside the country. “We are very impressed by the Pakistani resolve,” he said. “

The fact that so many troops have been deployed shows that they have a lot of stake in the battle.”

Mr Holbrooke also said that he had no concerns on nuclear facilities and did not agree with those who said that the extremists could seize the country’s nuclear arsenal.

From here.

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