Top US defence official arrives in Pak

US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Levoy will meet Pakistan officials to discuss ways how to normalise ties between the close allies.

Updated: Jun 09, 2012, 16:26 PM IST

Islamabad: A senior US defence official has arrived in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani officials on the reopening of supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan, the US embassy said on Saturday.

US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Levoy, leading an American delegation, will meet Foreign, Defence and Finance Ministry officials to discuss ways how to normalise relationship between the close allies.

Pakistan closed NATO supply line as a protest against airstrike on Pakistani border posts in November by US fighter jets, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The US has so far refused to tender apology over the strike despite Pakistan`s formal demand.

The already tense relationship saw further decline when a tribal court in Pakistan handed down a 33-year rigorous imprisonment to a Pakistani surgeon for helping the CIA reaches Osama bin Laden.

The US criticised the guilty verdict to Dr Shakil Afridi and as a protest slashed Pakistan`s USD 33 million aid. Islamabad has rejected the US call for release of Dr Afridi.

Continuation of US drone strikes in Pakistan`s Waziristan tribal region is another issue that has badly affected bilateral relations.

In order to find out solution to these issues and to reduce tension, the US defence team is scheduled to hold talks with Pakistani military and civilian officials later Saturday and in the coming days.

The US embassy in Islamabad confirmed arrival of the team and said that meetings with Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh have been scheduled.

Sources said that Pakistani and the US officials have held series of talks in Islamabad prior to the visit of Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Levoy and a final agreement on NATO supply line is expected to reach during the meetings.

The talks were deadlocked over taxes and additional transit fee Islamabad is demanding for each truckload of NATO supplies crossing its border into Afghanistan. Washington, however, thinks Pakistan’s demand is not pragmatic and that it will not be `` price gouged``.

Islamabad seeks to charge USD 5000 for each NATO container but Washington considers the amount too high.

It is believed that being a senior official from Washington, Levoy would have the mandate to take a decision on the contentious issue of taxation.