ISLAMABAD Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari announced on Tuesday government awards for US Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and Republican Senator Richard Lugar.

Zardari had awarded them the `Hilal-i-Pakistan` (Crescent of Pakistan) `in recognition of their consistent support for Pakistan`, the government said in a statement.

Biden and Lugar in July introduced a bipartisan US aid plan which calls for $1.5 billion per year in non-military spending to support economic development in Pakistan.

Biden was a member of the three-senator delegation that came to Pakistan to observe the parliamentary elections held on February 18, 2008. In a joint statement, the senators adjudged the elections to be free and Biden called for an expanded US package for Pakistan that would shift the focus from military to economic aid.

Senator Biden is currently Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, while Senator Lugar, the previous holder of the chairmanship, is the senior-most Republican on the committee. As such, the two have a great deal of power in shaping US foreign policy.

Pakistan has figured in the US presidential election campaign, with both Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican John McCain speaking of the need for more focus on defeating the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and eradicating al Qaeda from Pakistans borderlands.

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