Tue, Feb 15, 2011 - Page 5 News List

US postpones talks with Pakistan over diplomatic standoff

NY Times News Service and AFP, ISLAMABAD and MIRANSHAH, Pakistan

The US has postponed high-level talks to be held in Washington with Pakistan and Afghanistan, a sign of the displeasure with Pakistan over the arrest of a US official accused of murder.

The talks scheduled for Feb. 23 to 24, held annually to discuss the war in Afghanistan, involve foreign ministers and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

US officials have said that a variety of visits and assistance to Pakistan were in jeopardy if the Pakistani government did not quickly resolve the case of Raymond Davis, a US official who shot two motorcyclists in Lahore on Jan. 27 while driving his car.

The US State Department did not give a precise public explanation for the postponement of the talks except to say that “in light of the political changes in Pakistan” the talks would not go ahead.

However, US officials said the talks were postponed because it was unlikely they would produce anything worthwhile in the charged atmosphere between Pakistan and the US.

The US insists that Davis is protected by diplomatic immunity and that Pakistan is holding him illegally.

Davis remains in Pakistani detention and police on Friday rejected his claim that he had shot in self-defense because he feared the two men were trying to rob him.

Following the incident the US consulate general in Lahore sent a vehicle to help him, but it ran over and killed a third Pakistani man before fleeing the scene.

Media reports claim Davis is a private security contractor or undercover agent. The US government has refused to confirm his name or precise job, other than that he belonged to the embassy’s “technical and administrative” staff.

The Pakistani Taliban on Sunday demanded that the government execute Davis, or hand him over to the Islamist militant group.

“We demand that the Pakistani government hang Raymond Davis or otherwise hand him over to us. We will decide his fate,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Azam Tariq said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Tariq claimed that Davis, whose exact role in Pakistan has been unclear, was a spy.

“He was here for spying. He is an American spy. We will kill all those people and will target them who will help him [Davis] or try to set him free,” Tariq said.

“He is a killer, he has killed two innocent Pakistanis. We will take revenge for them,” Tariq said.

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