US diplomat warns no blank cheque for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – The top US diplomat for South Asia met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and warned that international donors would only give carefully targeted aid to the troubled country.

US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher visited Pakistan as its leaders face a growing Islamic militant insurgency and major economic difficulties.

Top US diplomat for South Asia Richard Boucher (left) met Pakistan ...
Top US diplomat for South Asia Richard Boucher (left) met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and warned that international donors would only give carefully targeted aid to the troubled country(AFP/Farooq Naeem)

But Boucher warned that no hand-outs would be available from the “Friends of Pakistan” — a group of nations, including China, the US, Britain and the UAE, which have pledged to help the country to stabilise.

“There is no money on the table,” Boucher told reporters in Islamabad. “The goal is to put the money where it belongs. It is not a cash advance.”

Pakistan has denied being at risk of defaulting on its foreign loans or suffering a balance of payments crisis.

Shaukat Tareen, the new finance adviser to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, repeated at the weekend there was “no danger” of a loan default.

However, he admitted “plan C” was a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Boucher’s visit came after a series of US missile strikes into the country’s tribal regions that have strained bilateral relations.

He and Zardari had discussed the “war on terror” and Pakistan’s worsening economic problems, a Pakistani government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The United States says insurgents striking international troops in Afghanistan are based in Pakistan’s border tribal belt, and has stepped up its missile attacks since a new government came to power in Islamabad in March.

Ties between the allies were further tested last month by US special forces in Afghanistan launching a raid into Pakistan that killed several Pakistanis.

Zardari has vowed zero tolerance against violations of his country’s sovereignty amid the attacks, which have stoked anti-US sentiment in Pakistan.

In the latest of Pakistan’s own military operations against Islamic militants, at least 12 Taliban were killed when jets and artillery pounded hideouts in a tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said.

The clashes took place in Bajaur, where Pakistani troops and militants linked to Al-Qaeda and Taliban have been engaged in fierce fighting since August.

 

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