Pakistan warns on strings-attached aid

April 14, 2009 at 9:24 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, April 14 (UPI) -- The $7.5 billion in aid proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama should be free of conditions, Pakistani officials told visiting Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Pakistani leaders Monday in Islamabad to discuss Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism, The Hill reported Tuesday.

In return for the multiyear aid, Pakistan is being asked to close terrorist camps in tribal regions along its border with Afghanistan and help thwart cross-border attacks by insurgents.

"The U.S. should not attach conditionalities to the assistance package being presented to the U.S. Congress, as aid with strings attached would fail to generate the desired goodwill and results in Pakistan," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said in a statement. He added that a "trust deficit" between the United States and Pakistan.

"The prime minister also pointed out that the negative messaging emanating from the U.S. and the West was generating ill will," the statement said.

Kerry also met with President Asif Ali Zardari, who said the aid was necessary, the Washington publication said.

"Generous support from the international community will help (strengthen) democracy in the country," Zardari said.

The meetings took place on the same day Zardari signed a controversial rule allowing the Taliban to impose Shariah law in the Swat valley in exchange for militants ending violent campaigns. Shariah is Islamic religious law under which penalties include flogging, chopping off hands and stoning.

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