Zardari, Gilani attempt to quell Pak-US tensions over Davis



Zardari, Gilani attempt to quell Pak-US tensions over Davis Islamabad: Pakistan's top leadership today sought to quell tensions with the US over the arrest of a suspected CIA contractor on murder charges, saying the two countries should focus on long-term strategic ties and restoring confidence and trust in key areas, including intelligence sharing.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said during their meetings with new US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman that bilateral relations should not be affected by "isolated" issues and incidents - an apparent reference to the issue of security contractor Raymond Davis, arrested in Lahore in January after he gunned down two men.

Without specifically referring to Davis, Zardari said Pakistan and the US should "remain focused" on long-term, multifaceted and durable strategic ties for achieving shared objectives instead of being "swayed by misperceptions and some isolated incidents that may be used by some to increase tensions and mistrust between the people of the two countries".

Zardari said the weakening of ties is "not an option" for the two countries.

"We have to find ways and means to find acceptable solutions to all problems," he said, in another apparent reference to Davis' case.

Gilani told Grossman it was "imperative" to restore confidence and trust between the two countries and to enhance cooperation at the military, bilateral and tripartite level with Afghanistan, including intelligence-sharing.

The premier also referred to the "need for validation of the utility and efficacy of the Pakistan-US partnership by steadfastly proceeding with the Strategic Dialogue".

The two countries "must share views candidly to deepen mutual understanding and isolated issues must not be allowed to impact bilateral relations", he said.

It could not immediately be ascertained whether Grossman reiterated the US administration's demand for freeing Davis, whose arrest affected cooperation between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Some reports said the two men gunned down by Davis were ISI operatives.

Pakistan has so far rebuffed US demands to free Davis on grounds of diplomatic immunity, sparking a row between the two sides.

Pakistan's leadership, fearful of a public backlash due to rising anti-American sentiment, have told the US that Davis' case will be settled by the courts.

Following Davis' arrest, US cancelled a trilateral meeting with Pakistan and Afghanistan scheduled for last month.

PTI