Bush administration opposes Pakistan linked-aid bill

Thursday, February 1, 2007; 3:18 AM

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The U.S. administration is opposed to provisions of a bill now in the hands of Congress which would link military aid for Pakistan to its efforts to tackle the Taliban, the U.S. embassy said.

Concern has mounted over Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, from where the Islamist militants last year orchestrated the bloodiest violence in neighboring Afghanistan since 2001.

Pakistan says it is doing all it can to stop militants infiltrating Afghanistan, but the U.S. military says cross-border attacks in Afghan border areas increased sharply last year.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are major U.S. allies in the war on terrorism.

The U.S. bill, known as H.R. 1, calls for an end to U.S. military assistance to Pakistan if it fails to stop the Taliban operating from its territory.

Some newspapers in Pakistan have likened the bill to the so-called Pressler Amendment to the 1985 U.S. foreign aid bill, under which Washington blocked the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan because of its nuclear program.

The bill has already been endorsed by the House of Representatives and will be sent to the Senate for consideration.

The U.S. embassy in Islamabad said linking aid to tackling the Taliban would be counter-productive to fostering a closer relationship with Pakistan, which was one of the bill's goals.

"While the U.S. administration supports the underlying intent of H.R. 1, the U.S. administration has serious concerns with several of the bill's provisions and does not support it in its current form," the embassy said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The United States and Pakistan were not only allies in the war on terrorism but also partners engaged in building a broad, long-term strategic relationship, it said.

Pakistan had continued to demonstrate its commitment to cooperation with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, it said.

Pakistan, which has been battling militants on its side of the border, acknowledges that some insurgents are crossing into Afghanistan but says the insurgency there is essentially an Afghan problem.

New U.S. House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, under whom the bill was introduced, visited Pakistan last week and met President Pervez Musharraf.

The government did not say whether the bill was discussed but Musharraf said Pakistan's resolve to fight extremism and terrorism was unshakeable.

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