Zardari aides hope Pak, US will 'work out differences' on Raymond Davis' detention

Islamabad, Feb 10(ANI): Aides to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari have expressed confidence that Islamabad and Washington can amicably resolve a diplomatic crisis over the detention of double-murder accused US diplomat Raymond Davis.

None of them would, however, directly respond to the statements from Washington that billions of dollars in US aid to Pakistan could be threatened and diplomatic contacts curbed if Davis was not released quickly.

Washington maintains that the man, identified as 36-year-old Raymond Allen Davis, has diplomatic immunity and shot the two Pakistanis in "self-defence" last month, when they tried to rob him.

To avoid a popular backlash in a country where anti-Americanism is rife, Pakistani officials have said that the matter is sub judice and up to the court, even though the US insists the Davis' detention is illegal under international agreements.

The dispute has escalated into a crisis between the two counterterrorism allies, whose relationship could determine the outcome of the war in Afghanistan.

But Pakistani officials insisted that the situation could be resolved through proper diplomatic channels.

"Pakistan and the US are strategic partners and we expect to work out our differences on this matter," the Daily Times quoted Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to Zardari, as saying.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar echoed that sentiment, but said that the amount of time being taken by the Foreign Ministry to decide on Davis' immunity issue suggested that "it is not really a case of just black and white".

Initially, confusing statements from Washington, combined with long-circulating conspiracy theories about American mercenaries on the loose, further inflamed the public opinion in Pakistan.

After initially saying that the arrested US official's name was wrongly reported in the media, and that he was an employee of the US consulate in Lahore, the United States later said that the accused was an employee of the US Embassy in Islamabad, working as "administrative and technical staff", and should enjoy criminal immunity under international law.

One complicating factor is that Pakistan's domestic law does not grant immunity to administrative and technical staff, said Tariq Fatemi, former Pakistan's Ambassador to the US.

While government officials say Davis' fate is up to the court in Punjab that is hearing his case, provincial officials insist that the federal government must inform them whether Davis has immunity.

Fatemi said it was the Foreign Ministry's responsibility to determine whether Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity or not. (ANI)

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