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Obama to sign Kerry-Lugar bill today, sans any change

By Lalit K Jha
October 14, 2009 11:26 IST
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US President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law on Wednesday, the Kerry-Lugar bill for US $ 7.5 billion aid to Pakistan after two powerful Congressional committees issue an "explanatory statement" addressing concerns of its opponents, mainly the Pakistan Army.

However, there would be no change in the text of the bill, which its key architects and the Obama administration insisted has nothing to impinge on Pakistan's sovereignty. Visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met a number of key Congressional leaders and officials here to convey to them concerns of the powerful Army and opposition parties in his country over the bill. Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters that the House and Senate foreign affairs committees would issue a joint explanatory statement detailing the intents and contents of the bill.

Administration officials and Congressional sources said the statement is expected to be issued later in the day in an effort to address Pakistani objections to the bill, but ruled out making any changes in the bill at this point of time. "Obama believes this is an important piece of legislation and will sign it soon," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. The Washington Post said the joint statement will "clarify" provisions requiring reports on Pakistan's expenditures, its progress in combating insurgents and the extent of civilian control over military.

The Post said quoting unnamed officials that the joint statement will also emphasise mutual respect between the two
countries. "The President continues to believe, as do the Secretary of State, and members that crafted the legislation, believe this is a very significant part of our relationship with Pakistan; ensuring support, but also ensuring that that money
goes to being spent on what it's intended for," Gibbs said.
The bill – a comprised version between the Senate, House of Representative and the Administration – was passed unanimously by both the chambers of the US Congress and the Pakistani establishment too was consulted. Qureshi, here to raise Pakistan's concerns over the legislation, said: "Pakistan will not compromise on its sovereignty".
"I said in my press take out with Secretary Clinton we would not allow micromanagement, and I think that the concerns
that have been expressed whether they are on national security, which to Pakistan is supreme, it's important. We have discussed it very frankly," he told reporters in a joint availability with Senator John Kerry.
"Now, we are going to work on it collectively to give it the correct interpretation," he said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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