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Page last updated at 04:57 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 05:57 UK

'No change' to Pakistan aid bill

Slum in Pakistan
The US aid to Pakistan is subject to conditions

A top US senator behind a major aid package to Pakistan has said there are no conditions attached to it that "impinge" on Pakistan's sovereignty.

Senator John Kerry made the comment after a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The package, which Mr Kerry co-authored with Senator Richard Lugar, triples non-military aid to Pakistan to an annual outlay of $1.5bn for five years.

The Kerry-Lugar bill set several conditions for the aid to Pakistan.

Under the bill, 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 be spent on various development projects.

'Correct interpretation'

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

But Mr Kerry told the Pakistani foreign minister - who is in Washington to highlight these concerns - that Pakistan had no reason to worry.

"There is nothing in this bill that impinges on Pakistani sovereignty - period, end of issue. And we have no intention of doing so," he told reporters.

"The bill doesn't have to be changed. If there is a misinterpretation, it simply has to be clarified," he said.

The Kerry-Lugar bill, which has been cleared by the US Congress, does not "require anything of Pakistan that isn't already the stated policy of the government and opposition parties,"," he said.

Senator John Kerry and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Mr Kerry (right) says the bill does 'not have to be changed'

Mr Qureshi, who was in Washington only last week expressing his support for the bill, said: "It is my responsibility as a friend of this relationship - a person who wants to deepen and strengthen this relationship - that we address these concerns."

"We are going to work on it collectively to give it the correct interpretation," he added.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says this clearly suggests a disconnect between the army and the civilian leadership, which has hailed the Kerry-Lugar bill as a success of Pakistani government's engagement with the US.

The aid money will not be directly handed over to Pakistan.

It 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 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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