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Still smarting from NATO attack, Pak rejects visit of Obama's envoy

January 18, 2012 20:32 IST

In further escalation of tension with the United States, Pakistan has asked for the visit of President Barack Obama's special envoy to be put on hold till it formulates its policies towards Washington, in the wake of the deadly strike by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Obama's Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman was scheduled to visit Pakistan as part of his ongoing tour to the region for consultation on exploratory talks with the Taliban to engage them in the reconciliation process.

"We received word that the Pakistan government felt that it would be best to wait (for Grossman's visit) until this parliamentary review is concluded," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Pakistan has set up a parliamentary committee to formulate its rules of engagement with the US following the November 26 NATO strike.

Following the attack, Pakistan blocked NATO supply routes from its soil, asked the US to vacate Shamshi air base and said it will review its rules of engagement with the Washington.

It was not immediately known when Grossman planned to visit Pakistan.

The development indicates further deterioration in the Pak-US relationship, which has been on a continuous downswing since the May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad.

But, in response to questions, Toner said that Pakistan would continue to play a role in the Afghan reconciliation process.

On Pakistan-US differences, the State Department spokesman said there was no alternative other than for the two countries to work on their divergences.

"There is no other solution here other than to work through our differences. We absolutely view Pakistan as an essential partner to this Afghan-led reconciliation process," Toner said.

The US, he said, would wait for the outcome of the Pakistani parliamentary committee review of the nature of relationship between the two countries, and insisted that it is unlikely to go beyond the deep regret which it expressed for the attack.

The Washington Post had reported earlier that Pakistan had turned down the request of Grossman to travel to Islamabad during his current trip to the region that started this week.

The paper, quoting US officials, said this indicated that Washington's patience with Pakistan was growing thinner as the country was increasingly standing up to the US and was saying "no" more often.

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