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Pakistan Hopes Jailed American Won't Derail Talks

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February 13, 2011

Pakistan said Sunday a diplomatic row with Washington over a jailed U.S. citizen should not scuttle talks between Pakistani and Afghan officials on the war in Afghanistan.

The U.S. postponed the trilateral meeting on Saturday, but Pakistan's Foreign Office expressed the hope that "one person would not drive Pakistan-U.S. relations." Pakistan prizes such gatherings as a way to assert influence in Afghanistan.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said he is confident the three-way talks will continue.

"The trilateral talks will be rescheduled in due course of time," he said. "It is important the trilateral process continues. We hope whenever held, [talks] will yield maximum results for peace and stability."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. hopes to reschedule the meeting soon.

Police in the Pakistani city of Lahore are pushing for a murder trial for Raymond Davis, the jailed 36-year old American. The U.S. Embassy says the former U.S. Special Forces solider is a diplomat, entitled to immunity and acted in self-defense when he fatally shot two armed men.

The U.S. did not directly link the cancelled trilateral meeting to its displeasure over Pakistan's handling of the case, but it is affecting relations. The U.S. Congress is talking of cutting off aid to the South Asian nation.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was foreign minister until a Cabinet reshuffle three days ago, denied immunity for Davis but didn't elaborate. It was not clear whether his dismissal was related to his stance. A new foreign minister has not been named.

The Foreign Office is due this week to tell the Lahore High Court whether Davis has immunity or not.

Davis has touched off small anti-American protests and Pakistan's government is fearful of them growing.

NPR's Julie McCarthy contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press

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