Pak wants UK to mediate with US in row over NATO attack

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London, Nov 30: Reeling under anti-US public sentiments, Pakistan has asked Britain, which has "undoubted influence" over Americans, to mediate with the Obama administration in its dispute over the killing of 24 of its soldiers in a NATO attack that has frozen their ties.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke to Foreign Secretary William Hague soon after the incident, and asked him to act as a "go-between and mediator" to help achieve a "better understanding" between Pakistan and the US, Pakistan's High Commissioner here, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said.

Hague responded sympathetically to the request made by Khar on Sunday, Hasan told The Guardian.

"We are appealing to Britain to use its undoubted influence with the Americans to force them to review their policy towards Pakistan and change tack before it is too late.

"This is an opportunity for the UK to show that it has a very different attitude to Pakistan and it is not trying to hide behind the US. We are asking (Premier) David Cameron to tell (US President Barack) Obama to think again about how the US treats Pakistan," he said.

The request to Britain to mediate comes amidst a row in Pakistan over a two-part BBC documentary titled 'Secret Pakistan', which was shown there over the weekend, and which led to cable operators in the country stopping the dissemination of the BBC World channel.

According to Hasan, most Pakistanis believe that last Saturday's NATO attack, the latest in a series of fierce rows between the US and Pakistan this year, was a deliberate provocation by US forces attached to NATO and Afghan army.

He alleged that the US disregard for Pakistani sovereignty and democracy threatened to make it impossible for Islamabad to continue cooperating with it on counter-terrorism and an overall Afghan settlement.

Hasan told The Guardian: "This business could be a watershed in Pakistan relations with the US. It could wreck the timetable for an American troop withdrawal. If they walk away in 2014 without ensuring the stability and peace in Afghanistan, the graveyard they leave behind will come back to haunt them.

"If they leave without a viable settlement in place, they will push all the debris of their failures into our lap and we will have to face it alone."

Hasan took his demand for British help to Alistair Burt, the foreign minister responsible for South Asia.

He said he urged the minister yesterday to show solidarity with Pakistan and make plain that Britain disapproved of infringements of Pakistani sovereignty.

Hasan alleged that US actions beyond Afghanistan were contributing to the destabilisation of Pakistan by increasing public anger towards the government over its cooperation with Washington.

According to him, these US actions included "one-sided" support for India's civil nuclear energy programme, public airing of concerns about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, an insistence on unfair market-access trade rules and a history of supporting Pakistan's military rulers -- thereby undermining the country's democratic institutions.

He said: "The way the Americans behave, they are not leaving any political space for (Prime Minister Yousuf Raza) Gilani and (President Asif Ali) Zardari. They are up against the wall. They have no room to manoeuvre," the High Commissioner said.

Pakistan, he said, was "a nation in distress... If democracy collapses in Pakistan, a radical regime could take over."

PTI

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