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Release Raymond Davis: Clinton tells Zardari

Last updated on: February 8, 2011 20:19 IST

Release Raymond Davis: Clinton tells Zardari

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The United States has ramped up pressure on Pakistan over the issue of an American arrested for gunning down two men in Lahore, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sending a message to President Asif Ali Zardari seeking his release, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday.

Clinton's message, delivered to Zardari by US Ambassador Cameron Munter during a meeting on Monday, emphasised on the American administration's stand that the arrested official Raymond Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity and should be released, the sources told PTI.

Munter, who returned from a visit to Washington on Monday, carried Clinton's message back with him, they said. Pakistan's Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Munter and Zardari discussed "bilateral relations" during their meeting but did not give details.

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Image: US Secretart of State Hillary Clinton

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Davis had been illegally detained in Pakistan: US

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US embassy spokesperson Courtney Beale said Munter "once again reiterated that the US citizen was being illegally detained and that he enjoys diplomatic immunities under the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations."

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday, too indicated that Munter had called on Zardari to release the arrested official. "We continue to make clear to the government of Pakistan that our diplomat has diplomatic immunity; in our view, he was acting in self-defence and should be released. Ambassador Munter met with President Zardari to continue to make that point," he said.

Image: US consulate employee Raymond Davis is escorted by police and officials out of Lahore court
Photographs: Tariq Saeed/Reuters
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US-Pakistan-Afghanistan summit in jeopardy?

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The increased US pressure came against the backdrop of reports that the Obama administration had suspended all high-level contacts with the Pakistan government over the detention of the US official.

The reports also suggested that this fresh irritant in bilateral relations could jeopardise a planned US-Pakistan-Afghanistan summit in Washington at the end of this month.

However, Beale denied the reports that the US has put on hold high-level bilateral meetings with Pakistan to pressure the government to release Davis. "We are making decisions on upcoming meetings on a case-by-case basis," she was quoted as saying by CNN.

Image: US President Barack Obama with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari
Photographs: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
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No plans to call off Zardari's Washington visit

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Sources in the Pakistan government told PTI that there were no plans for Zardari to call off his planned visit to Washington for the trilateral summit as the two countries were working to resolve the issue of Davis.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reportedly did not attend an international security conference in Munich last week after Secretary of State Clinton cancelled a meeting with him to protest Davis' arrest. Pakistan was represented at the conference by Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The US administration has also called off several scheduled visits to Pakistan by American officials and Congressmen. A recent cancellation was the visit of US Deputy Secretary for Treasury Neal Wolin.

Image: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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Punish Davis, say angry Pakistanis

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The Davis issue has been complicated following the suicide of the widow of one of the two men shot dead by Davis and growing anti-American sentiments in Pakistan.

Hardline groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah organised protests in Punjab province after Shumaila Kanwal, the widow of one of the alleged robbers killed by Davis, died in hospital on Sunday.

The JuD and religious groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami have also organised protests and rallies across Punjab in recent days, calling for the punishment of Davis, who was arrested in Lahore on January 27 after he gunned down two men he claimed were trying to rob him.

The Lahore high court, acting on a petition, has barred the government from handing over Davis to the US.

The Dawn newspaper reported today that Pakistan's political leadership was "inclined to end the diplomatic stalemate on the issue of Raymond Davis" but has come under "intense pressure from other state institutions, which are not ready to offer immunity for the accused."

The suicide of the widow of one of the men killed by Davis will not "make it easy for the Gilani administration to take a decision on the matter," the report quoted analysts as saying.

The Foreign Office has taken an "inflexible stand" on the issue because the military establishment "holds the same view," the report added. The Pakistan government is heavily dependent on aid provided by the US, which has funnelled billions of dollars into the military and development programmes, but does not want to be seen as doing the bidding of the American administration.

Image: Family members of the two Pakistanis who were killed demand that Davis be hanged
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters
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