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Page last updated at 19:34 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 20:34 UK

Obama signs big Pakistan aid bill

John Kerry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Howard Berman, 14 Oct 2009
Pakistan's foreign minister received assurances from US congressmen

US President Barack Obama has signed into law a $7.5bn aid package for Pakistan, after fears it might impinge on Pakistani sovereignty were eased.

It follows meetings between the bill's authors, Democrats John Kerry and Howard Berman, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The two congressmen issued a statement saying the bill set no conditions that would infringe Pakistan's sovereignty.

It triples non-military US aid to an annual outlay of $1.5bn for five years.

Mr Qureshi's meetings with Mr Kerry and Mr Berman - the chairmen of the Senate and House foreign relations committees - came a week after he had been in Washington praising the bill.

His rushed return to the US capital for further talks followed a surge of opposition to the legislation among Pakistan's military and many politicians.

The Pakistani army expressed "serious concerns" about the package and said it was uneasy about "clauses impacting on national security".

'Great sacrifices'

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the bill showed support for Pakistan's democratic institutions and the Pakistani people.

Slum in Pakistan
The US aid to Pakistan will be used for development projects

The "joint explanatory statement" released by Mr Kerry and Mr Berman after their meetings with Mr Qureshi will be placed in the Congressional Record, the official log of proceedings in Congress, with the bill.

Mr Kerry said the statement "honours the great sacrifices made by Pakistani security forces in the fight against extremism.

"And it also makes absolutely clear - and I want to emphasise this point - that the legislation does not seek in any way to compromise Pakistan's sovereignty, impinge on Pakistan's national security interests or micromanage any aspect of Pakistani military or civilian operations."

Militant groups

The bill, which was passed unanimously by the US Congress, set several conditions for the aid to Pakistan.

Under the legislation, the secretary of state will have to certify periodically that Pakistan is working to dismantle the illegal nuclear proliferation networks.

The US also has to certify that Pakistan is no longer supporting militant groups.

The aid money will not be directly handed over to Pakistan but will be spent on different development projects through the US embassy in Islamabad.

According to reports, a special unit is being established in the embassy, which will maintain accounts of the aid spent and strictly monitor it.

Recently, the US said it had provided more than $3bn in aid to Pakistan since President Asif Zardari came to power a year ago.

The money was given in "combined security, economic and development assistance", US officials said.

In May this year, the US announced it was sending $110m (£71m) in aid to Pakistan to help it cope with the refugee crisis caused by violence between troops and the Taliban in the north-west.



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