US in Pakistan for talks after bin Laden death

May 16, 2011 12:00 am

, ISLAMABAD – Pakistan on Monday spelt out its anger over the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden during talks with Senator John Kerry who has warned of profound consequences if the allies cannot fix their fractured ties.

As talks got under way a Saudi diplomat was gunned down in the southern city of Karachi in an attack authorities said was being investigated for possible links to bin Laden\’s killing.

Two weeks after the Navy SEALs raid on Pakistani soil, which both nations say was carried out unilaterally, plunging relations to a new low, Kerry\’s visit was aimed at stemming a diplomatic crisis.

The US senator is widely respected in Pakistan for brokering a record $7.5 billion dollar aid package that some American lawmakers are now questioning as inappropriate after bin Laden was found living in relative comfort in Pakistan.

His visit seeks to defuse tensions in the wake of the commando raid of which Pakistan\’s parliament said there must be no repeat and insisted US drone strikes targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders on its territory must end.

Kerry arrived late Sunday and went straight into talks with Pakistan\’s powerful army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani who briefed him about the "intense feelings" within the army over the raid, the military said Monday.

The most senior US visitor since the Al-Qaeda mastermind\’s death on May 2, Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday. Kerry was later to meet President Asif Ali Zardari, a foreign ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

The military said "detailed discussions" on Pakistan-US relations would be held in joint meetings with the civilian leadership.

There have been heightened security fears in Pakistan since the bin Laden killing and the killing of the Saudi diplomat in a hail of gunfire was the second attack on Saudi interests in Karachi in less than a week.

Pakistani police told AFP that the Saudi had been driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates when two motorcycle riders opened fire at a crossroads in the city\’s upmarket Defence neighbourhood.

Last Wednesday, drive-by assailants threw two grenades at the consulate in Karachi in what officials said could have been reaction to bin Laden\’s death.

The Taliban, blamed for some of the worst acts of violence in Pakistan, last Friday claimed a double suicide bombing that killed 89 people outside a police training centre as their first revenge for bin Laden.

In a telephone call, Zardari\’s office said the president and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "agreed to resolve the issues amicably and move forward".

Before travelling to Pakistan, Kerry told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul that US ties with its nuclear-armed ally were at a "critical moment".

"We need to find a way to march forward if it is possible. If it is not possible, there are a set of downside consequences that can be profound," said Kerry, whose trip to the region has been endorsed by President Barack Obama.

He said the discovery of the Al-Qaeda chief living close to Islamabad meant talks had to "resolve some very serious issues".

The raid has rocked Pakistan\’s security establishment, with its government, intelligence services and military widely accused of incompetence or complicity over the presence of bin Laden in a garrison town near the capital.

Pakistan has vowed to review intelligence cooperation with the United States and its foreign ministry called the raid "unauthorised unilateral action".

"There is lot of anguish. There is confusion. There is loss of face. It is a function of command to restore confidence," said military analyst and retired general Talat Masood when asked about Kayani\’s talks with Kerry.

The United States has given about $18 billion to Pakistan since the September 11, 2001 attacks, when the nuclear-armed nation officially ended support for Afghanistan\’s Taliban and agreed to work with Washington.

In 2009, Congress authorised $7.5 billion to help bolster the weak civilian government by building schools, roads and democratic institutions.

Kerry, chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations committee, repeated Washington\’s belief that Pakistani authorities know where Taliban safe havens harbouring the leaders of Afghanistan\’s insurgency are located.

"There is some evidence of Pakistan government knowledge of some of these activities in ways that is very disturbing," he told reporters in Kabul, adding that he would raise the long-standing issue in Islamabad.


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