`Pak must bite the bullet on NATO supplies`

A senior US official has said the Pakistan government should re-open supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Islamabad: A senior US official has said the Pakistan government should "bite the bullet" and re-open supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan in order to ease tensions with the United States.

"If the civilian government in Islamabad would bite the bullet and make the political decision to open the ground lines of communication, that would deflect some of the negativity right now," the Daily Times quoted the official, as saying.

"It wouldn`t automatically turn things around, but that would be an important step," he added.

The US said it was withdrawing its team of negotiators from Pakistan without securing a long-sought deal on supply routes for the war in neighbouring Afghanistan, publicly exposing a diplomatic stalemate and deeply strained relations that appear at risk of deteriorating further, reports the paper.

Pakistan banned trucks from carrying supplies to US troops in Afghanistan last year in protest against a cross-border NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Although the US official suggested that Pakistan would have to take several steps to repair the heavily damaged ties, he said the strategic allies could not afford a rupture.

"We have longer-term interests that we must keep in mind. The interests are nuclear, it is counterterrorism and it is also reconciliation in Afghanistan for a relatively peaceful and stable region," said the official.

"So you know, the heightened sentiments in Washington will eventually have to come to a point where people say hold on, we have bigger interests here," he added.

Pakistan, for its part, is demanding an apology from the US over the NATO strike, but it is unlikely to get one.

"Salala broke the camel`s back," said the official.

With the Pakistan routes unavailable, NATO has turned to countries to the north of Afghanistan for more expensive, longer land routes. Resupplying troops in Afghanistan through the northern route is about 2 1/2 times more expensive than shipping items through Pakistan, a US defence official said.


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