NATO won't pay $5,000 per truck to Pakistan: Panetta

NATO won't pay $5,000 per truck to Pakistan: Panetta

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has ruled out paying Pakistan $5,000 for each truck carrying supplies via its territory for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

In an interview to the Los Angeles Times before his arrival in Chicago where a NATO summit is scheduled to begin Sunday, Panetta said: "Considering the financial challenges that we're facing, that's not likely."

Pakistani officials had demanded the amount as a condition for reopening the supply routes that were closed following NATO air strikes in November on Pakistan Army border posts that killed 24 soldiers.

The US has shifted deliveries to different routes through Russia and other countries to Afghanistan's north. But the massive withdrawals of equipment due to take place till 2014 will be "significantly" more difficult if routes in Pakistan are not used, the Pentagon said.

US officials say they remain hopeful they can resolve the dispute, perhaps at the NATO summit.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari accepted a last-minute invitation to attend the meet, although he is not expected to meet US President Barack Obama.

Citing a senior US official, the daily said NATO convoys were paying an average of about $250 per truck before the November incident that caused strains in the US-Pakistan relationship.

The Obama administration hopes the two-day summit will highlight what Panetta called a "consensus" within the NATO about how to disengage militarily from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

A year ago, the Obama administration was hopeful it could draw the Taliban into peace negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, but Panetta acknowledged that he did not see a deal to end the conflict happening "any time soon".

"Everybody in the alliance recognises that for this to work, we can't pick up and leave. We've got to remain there to provide support and to assist them in that effort with training, with assistance, with advice," he said.

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