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ISLAMABAD, Jan 5: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has called for repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqi from the United States on humanitarian grounds and immediate release of five Pakistanis detained in Guantanamo.

The prime minister made the demand during a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher here on Monday.

The health of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who faces the charge of firing on US officials in Afghanistan, was cited as justification for her release on humanitarian grounds, an official said.

The prime minister apprised Mr Boucher of efforts being made by Pakistan to defuse tension with India and his government’s commitment to take action against any Pakistani national if credible evidence is provided.

He hoped that the new US administration would take up President-elect Barak Obama’s initiative to appoint a special envoy to help resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir for lasting peace in the region.

He condemned the Israeli attack on Gaza in which hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed and urged the US and the world community to play their role to end the Israeli atrocities.

Mr Gilani also discussed plans to hold a meeting of ‘Friends of Pakistan’ and a donors conference to help his government to overcome the economic difficulties and strengthen its hands

in combating extremism and

terrorism.

He pointed out that the US was yet to fulfil a promise made three years ago about a legislation on reconstruction opportunity zones and said that the process needed to be expedited.

Mr Gilani said the pledged assistance for building the capacity of law-enforcement agencies and foreign military funding for Pakistan’s defence forces needed to be fast tracked.

He expressed the hope that the Biden-Lugar Bill would be taken up by the new Congress and it would be adopted without any condition.

Mr Boucher assured Mr Gilani that he would take up the case of Dr Aafia and Pakistani prisoners in Guantanamo with the relevant US authorities for their expeditious repatriation.

He agreed with the prime minister on the need for an early resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Once the present crisis was defused, he said, the US government would move ahead with its initiative to help Pakistan and India to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.

He highlighted the importance of cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and said that Washington appreciated Islamabad’s difficulties in the fight against terror.

He assured the prime minister that the US remained committed to providing economic assistance to Pakistan. Besides, efforts would also be made to get approval for militarily help from the new US Congress.

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