NEW YORK, Jan 8: The US State Department has asked Pakistan to withdraw diplomatic immunity of its Ambassador Munir Akram at the world body following a request by the New York City’s prosecutors office.

The City’s prosecutors want to investigate a month-old assault charges filed against him by a woman friend, who has since recanted her story.

Marijana Mihic, 35, has withdrawn the charges and met the New York City’s district attorney’s officials pleading that the case not be pursued.

The New York Times in a report on Wednesday acknowledged that the legal dispute came at a bad time for the ambassador. On Jan 1, Pakistan took a seat on the 15-nation Security Council for a two-year term, just when the Council would be weighing whether to authorize war on Iraq.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Mission expressed surprise that the paper like the New York Times had decided to run the report when no charges had been filed.

“The ambassador and his friend both strongly believe that there is no basis for any legal action in this matter,” said Spokesman Mansoor Suhail. “And they have both communicated that belief to the concerned authorities.”

The spokesman noted that a “trivial matter has been blown up into an issue” when both parties had communicated that belief to the authorities.

A spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs said that the ministry was investigating the incident “which appears to have been based on some misunderstanding”. On completion of this process, further appropriate action would be taken, he added.

Diplomats here speculate that Mr Akram, who is known to take tough, principled positions on issues without fear, could be undermined with reports about his personal life.

Mr Akram refused to make any comments on the reports on the advice of his lawyers. However, he expressed the hope that the matter would be resolved “fairly”.

AFP adds: The New York Times and The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the US request stemmed from a Dec 10 incident in which the New York police were called to Mr Akram’s home by a woman who alleged the envoy had beaten her.

The woman told the police that Mr Akram had smashed her head into a wall, that her arm hurt and that he had hit her before, according to the newspaper accounts.