Friends of Pakistan not to advance cash to Pak: US diplomat

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Islamabad, Oct 21 (UNI) US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher has said the core group of the recently formed ''Friends of Democratic Pakistan'' is committed to help the country to overcome the financial crisis, but ''would not throw money on the table.'' ''It is not going to be a cash advance for Pakistan,'' Mr Boucher told reporters last evening at a media briefing at the US embassy.

He said a framework for promising any kind of assistance through the group, formed last month to cater to Pakistan's financial needs and possible economic collapse, would come only after a thorough assessment of the country's plans.

The statement, by the top US diplomat came after he had attended a preliminary meeting of the ''Friends of Pakistan'' here, dashed the hopes of all those, who were expecting immediate relief from the forum.

''It is going to be a strategic process in which Friends of Pakistan would look into what the (Pakistan) government is doing; what is it planning; and how can those efforts be supplemented,'' Mr Boucher said.

''The assistance would be in the form of ''strategic support to give ordinary Pakistanis better and safe life,'' he added.

Mr Boucher, who arrived here over weekend, met the country's top leadership, including two meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani; discussions with the Advisor on Finance, the NWFP Governor and chief of the main opposition party PML-N Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Boucher also met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and discussed bilateral relations, counter-terrorism cooperation, and international and regional issues of mutual interest.

Pakistan-US cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism was discussed in detail during the meeting, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Mr Qureshi highlighted his government's three-pronged strategy, combining political, economic development and security tracks, and reaffirmed Pakistan's firm resolve to combat terrorism and extremism.

He underscored that Pakistan desired a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and reaffirmed the country's commitment to work closely with the international partners in this regard.

The Foreign Minister and the Assistant Secretary also exchanged views on the crore group and agreed that this provided a very useful forum to contribute to Pakistan's efforts to address the current challenges.

UNI XC SW CS1125

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