WASHINGTON, July 29: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday that Pakistan did not need guarantee for its sovereignty from the United States but he saw no harm if they volunteer such an assurance.

Talking to the Pakistani media in Washington, Mr Gilani described his meeting with White House hopeful Barack Obama earlier on Tuesday as positive.

“He supports democracy in Pakistan and he supports Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Mr Gilani.

“Since he does not want to publicise the meeting so close to the election, we are not talking about it.”

Asked why Pakistan needs America’s guarantee for its sovereignty, the prime minister said: “We do not need such a guarantee from any one but if they offer it on their own, I see no harm.”

Mr Gilani described his meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House on Monday as “excellent” and once again assured the Pakistani media that he was no seeking America’s guarantee for Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved legislation to triple US assistance to Pakistan, agreeing to give a total of $15 billion in 10 years.

Two senior Senators -— Joseph Biden and Richard Lugar — had presented a bill in the US Senate last month, urging Congress to increase US assistance to Pakistan to assure the Pakistani people that Washington desires a long-term engagement with Islamabad.

The bill will now go to the full Senate and then to the House of Representatives before it can be implemented.

The package was approved in the presence of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who is currently in Washington for talks with President Bush and other senior officials.

The bipartisan legislation authorises 1.5 billion dollars annually for development purposes, such as building schools, roads and clinics, for five years and advocates a similar amount over a subsequent five-year period, beginning in 2009.

The non-military aid is a major shift in the US-Pakistan relations with the bill authorising a figure more than triple the current levels of non-military funding.



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