Washington: US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has ruled out paying USD 5,000 to Pakistan for each truck carrying supplies across its territory for NATO troops waging the Afghanistan war.
Pakistan has demanded the amount as a condition for reopening supply routes that have been closed to the alliance since November, after a deadly US air raid killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghanistan border.
"Considering the financial challenges that we’re facing, that’s not likely," the Daily Times quoted Panetta, as saying.
Before the supply routes were closed, NATO convoys were paying an average of about USD 250 a truck, a senior US official said, adding that US officials remain hopeful they can resolve the dispute, perhaps at the NATO Summit in Chicago.
Thousands of trucks a day carrying supplies would go through multiple border crossings from Pakistan to Afghanistan, making the fees a potentially massive source of revenue for the cash-strapped government in Islamabad.
The US has shifted deliveries to different routes through Russia and other countries to Afghanistan’s north. But the massive withdrawals of equipment due to unfold over the next two-and-a-half years as troops leave the country will be "significantly" more difficult if routes in Pakistan aren’t used, the Pentagon acknowledged in a report last month.
The US hopes the two-day summit will highlight what Panetta calls a "consensus" within NATO about how to disengage militarily with Afghanistan by the end of 2014, reports the paper.