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Zardari Cautions Against Aid Cut

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Any cut in U.S. aid would both hurt Pakistan’s economy and send a negative signal to its people, Pakistan’s president told a visiting U.S. Senate delegation.

Meeting the delegation in Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari said he hoped U.S. lawmakers would not take any such steps, Dawn newspaper reported.

“Any cut in assistance will not only impact our existing economic conditions at this critical moment but will also send a negative signal to the public about the commitment of the U.S. government towards the people of Pakistan when they are suffering heavily in economic terms due to unparalleled toll of war against terror,” Zardari was quoted as saying.

The delegation, which arrived after a two-day visit to Afghanistan, included Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. The visitors also met with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained since May 2 when U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a raid on his compound deep inside Pakistan. The U.S. government suspended $800 million in military assistance after Pakistan sent back U.S. military trainers.

The Obama administration may also consider linking future security assistance to Pakistan meeting counter-terrorism objectives.

Levin was quoted as saying Pakistan’s failure to act against the Haqqani network in its North Waziristan region, the Afghan Taliban around Quetta and other militant extremists, was undermining the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

The state-run Associated Press of Pakistani quoted Zardari as saying Pakistan is ready to work with the international community for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.

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