No US blank cheque for Pakistan; but $1.5 bn in annual aid

March 28th, 2009 - 12:14 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 27 (IANS) President Barack Obama Friday announced plans to provide Pakistan $1.5 billion non-military aid annually for the next five years, linked to Islamabad taking action to root out “violent extremists”.

“After years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank cheque,” he said, announcing a new strategy for the region. He also said “the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks are in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

“Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken - one way or another - when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets,” he said.

Obama said it is key that Americans understand Pakistan “needs our help” in the fight against Al Qaeda.

“Al Qaeda and other violent extremists have killed several thousand Pakistanis since 9/11. They have killed many Pakistani soldiers and police. They assassinated (former Pakistan prime minister) Benazir Bhutto.”

“They have blown up buildings, derailed foreign investment, and threatened the stability of the state. Make no mistake: Al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within,” Obama said.

He called on the Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, authorising “$1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years - resources that will build schools, roads, and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan’s democracy.”

He is also urging the Congress to pass a bipartisan bill “that creates opportunity zones in the border region to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued by violence. And we will ask our friends and allies to do their part - including at the donors conference in Tokyo next month.”

Obama said the United States must work with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and others to help Pakistan get through the economic crisis.

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