US rejects Pak opposition to Kerry Lugar bill

As US President Barack Obama prepared to sign the bill into law, senior administration officials made it clear to visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that they were unlikely to make any changes in the bill, while accusing its opponents of misinterpreting the legislation to serve their own interests.

"I know a number of countries have conditional aid based on meeting certain important criteria. I think the President believes this is appropriate. I think the opponents of this bill... either are misinformed or are characterising this in a different way for their own political purposes," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Senator John Kerry, co-author of the bill, also held talks with Qureshi who was rushed by the Pakistan government to Washington in a last minute bid to address concerns over the bill back home.

"There is nothing in this bill that impinges on Pakistani sovereignty -- period, end of issue. And we have no intention of doing so," Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a joint news conference with Qureshi.

Kerry said it was clear from his discussion with Qureshi that "the bill has not been characterised accurately in some quarters".

But two powerful Senate and House committees were preparing a Joint Explanatory Statement to assuage concerns in Pakistan over the bill, and provide assurances that the US has no intention of interfering with Pakistan's sovereignty.

Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the statement would detail the intents and contents of the bill.

The statement would "clarify" provisions requiring reports on Pakistan's expenditures, its progress in combating insurgents and the extent of civilian control over military, the Washington Post said quoting unnamed officials.

Pakistan Army and opposition parties have opposed some of the provisions of the bill, saying they impacted on national security and sovereignty.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said: "Obama believes this is an important piece of legislation and will sign it soon".

Gibbs said the bill was an important part of US-Pak relationship and its provisions would ensure that the money was spent on what it is intended for.

Qureshi, meanwhile said: "I said in my press take out with Secretary Clinton we would not allow micromanagement, and I think that the concerns that have been expressed whether they are on national security, which to Pakistan is supreme, it's important. We have discussed it very frankly".

"Now, we are going to work on it collectively to give it the correct interpretation," Qureshi said.

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P J Crowley, meanwhile said there were strict measures of financial accountability, "but the Congress has imposed those on the US executive branch".

The bill – a comprised version between the Senate, House of Representative and the Administration – was passed unanimously by both the chambers of the US Congress.
The Kerry Lugar bill lays down a programme for USD 7.5 billion non-military aid to Pakistan over the next five years, tripling the US aid to the country.

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