US to Review New Aviation Security Policy: Zardari
Strict measures put in place by American authorities to screen air travellers from Pakistan have emerged as a major irritant in relations between the two countries, with President Asif Ali Zardari today asking the US to review its new security policy.

Zardari raised the issue during a meeting in Lahore with visiting US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke.

Zardari told the envoy that "the new screening regime for Pakistani nationals needed to be reviewed," an official statement said.

The new regime, introduced after a Nigerian bomber unsuccessfully tried to blow up a US-bound flight on Christmas Day, was assailed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a speech in Parliament yesterday.

Describing the screening of Pakistanis as "humiliating and against our self-respect," Gilani said the matter has been raised with the US through diplomatic channels.

Gilani also said recently that the new security measures had caused "consternation and anxiety" among Pakistanis and could "negatively impact bilateral ties."     

The US Transportation Security Administration introduced tougher screening rules for travellers from 14 countries, including Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen. The travellers are facing body pat-down searches and their carry-on baggage is being checked.

Pakistan's top leaders have also told the US that their country plays a crucial role in the war on terror and any strain on bilateral relations could impact the drive against the Taliban and other militant groups.

During his speech in the National Assembly yesterday, Gilani said: "We know our importance and position. No war can be won in Afghanistan without us."

Several other issues have also affected ties between the US and Pakistan.

Islamabad has repeatedly complained in recent days about delay in Washington reimbursing its expenses on the war on terror and the possible impact on Pakistan of the US troop surge in Afghanistan.

During his meeting with Holbrooke, Zardari said payments of over USD 1.3 billion were due to Pakistan under the US Coalition Support Fund for expenses on the war against terror. He sought the timely reimbursement of these funds.

Referring to the new Afghan strategy of the US, Zardari said Pakistan has legitimate interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and Washington "must remain sensitive to Pakistan's core national interests and concerns."

"US actions should remain on the Afghan side of the border," Zardari said.

He pointed out that US drone attacks on Pakistani territory "undermined the national consensus against the war on militancy."

He renewed Islamabad's demand for Washington to provide drone technology so that militants could be targeted by Pakistani security forces rather than foreign troops, which raised questions of sovereignty.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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