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US ready to send back officials for route deal

June 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, June 12: The United States will send back its negotiators to Islamabad if the Pakistani government agreed to conclude an agreement on reopening Nato supply lines, a Pentagon official told Dawn on Tuesday.

Cmdr Bill Speaks said the negotiators, who returned to Washington on Tuesday, had completed “technical consultations” before leaving Islamabad.

“Technical consultations have largely been completed. We are ready to send officials back to Islamabad when the Pakistani government is ready to conclude the agreement,” he said.

Mr Speaks noted that the US Chargé d’Affaires was in Islamabad “to continue working the process” for concluding a deal with Pakistan for reopening the supply routes.

“It remains our goal to complete an agreement as soon as possible,” he said.

On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little announced that the United States was pulling its negotiators from Pakistan, although the State Department said the team could go back at an appropriate time.

Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington, Sherry Rehman, also indicated that the talks would continue.

The US media, however, reported that the team left Islamabad after the Pakistani government “refused to allow a senior American defence official, Peter Lavoy, to meet the country's military chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani.

Gen Kayani was apparently upset over US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s remarks last week that the United States was running out of patience with Pakistan. The remarks hurt the Pakistanis even more because Mr Panetta made them in India.

Pakistan closed Nato supply lines to Afghanistan after a US air raid on a Pakistani military post killed 24 soldiers in November.