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Pak directs officials to end NATO blockade

May 16, 2012 22:36 IST

The Pakistan government has directed officials to finalise an agreement "as soon as possible" with the US to end a nearly six-month blockade of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Wednesday.

"All institutions have been asked to complete the negotiations as soon as possible.

"We will move forward through negotiations on the basis of the resolution (adopted by a joint session of parliament for resetting the relationship with the US and NATO)," Kaira said.

Following a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that discussed ties with the US and the reopening of the supply routes, Kaira told a news conference the government had not set any deadline for concluding negotiations with the American administration.

"The executive authority and all stakeholders will decide the issue. National honour and national interests will be kept in mind while making a decision," he said.

The cabinet also endorsed President Asif Ali Zardari's participation in a crucial NATO Summit in Chicago next week, he said.

"No conditions have been attached to the invitation for the President to participate in the NATO Summit," Kaira said in response to a question.

The civil government or the security establishment have not made any assurances to NATO, he added.

The NATO Summit to be held during May 20-21 will focus on the endgame in war-torn Afghanistan.

"World powers may get upset but we will not accept any pressure," Kaira said, referring to Pakistan's decision to forge ahead with energy projects with Iran despite opposition from the West.

Islamabad has never closed the path of dialogue to resolve issues, he added.

Islamabad has stopped short of saying when the NATO supply lines will reopen but official sources told PTI that President Zardari is expected to make a formal announcement during the summit in Chicago.

NATO had on Tuesday extended a last minute invitation to Zardari for the summit.

Pakistan shut the NATO supply routes on November 26 after a cross-border air strike by American forces in Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The two sides were unable to get their ties back on an even keel as Pakistan insisted on an unconditional apology for the air strike.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has sought to delink the demand for the apology from the reopening of the NATO supply lines.

She told a TV news channel on Wednesday that the demand from the apology from the US, which was still "on the table", should not be linked to relations with the nearly 50 members of NATO.

Pakistani and US officials are currently giving the final shape to new terms and conditions on the supply routes, including the fee to be charged for NATO containers and tankers passing through Pakistani territory.

The Pakistan government has also said it will allow only non-lethal supplies to be sent to Afghanistan.

Islamabad is looking to more than double the fees for NATO containers, which could earn the country up to a million dollars a day, sources said.

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