Clinton sends message to Zardari seeking American''s release

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 8 (PTI) The US has ramped up pressure onPakistan over the issue of an American arrested for gunningdown two men in Lahore, with Secretary of State HillaryClinton sending a message to President Asif Ali Zardariseeking his release, diplomatic sources said today.

Clinton''s message, delivered to Zardari by US AmbassadorCameron Munter during a meeting yesterday, emphasised on theAmerican administration''s stand that the arrested official,Raymond Davis, enjoyed diplomatic immunity and should bereleased, the sources told PTI.

Munter, who returned from a visit to Washingtonyesterday, carried Clinton''s message back with him, they said.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Munter andZardari discussed "bilateral relations" during their meetingbut did not give details.

US embassy spokesperson Courtney Beale said Munter "onceagain reiterated that the US citizen was being illegallydetained and that he enjoys diplomatic immunities under theVienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations."

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, speaking toreporters in Washington yesterday, too indicated that Munterhad called on Zardari to release the arrested official.

"We continue to make clear to the government of Pakistanthat our diplomat has diplomatic immunity; in our view, (he)was acting in self-defence and should be released...

Ambassador Munter met ... with President Zardari to continueto make that point," he said.

The increased US pressure came against the backdrop ofreports that the Obama administration had suspended allhigh-level contacts with the Pakistan government over thedetention of the US official.

The reports also suggested that this fresh irritant inbilateral relations could jeopardise a plannedUS-Pakistan-Afghanistan summit in Washington at the end ofthis month.

However, Beale denied the reports that the United Stateshas put on hold high-level bilateral meetings with Pakistanto pressure the government to release Davis.

"We are making decisions on upcoming meetings on acase-by-case basis," she was quoted as saying by CNN.

Sources in the Pakistan government told PTI that therewere no plans for President Zardari to call off his plannedvisit to Washington for the trilateral summit as the twocountries were working to resolve the issue of Davis. (More)PTI RHL KIM AKJ

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