Pakistan increases restrictions on travel by US diplomats

A letter sent to the US embassy in Islamabad increased limitations on when and how diplomats can move outside the capital, in the latest sign of worsening ties between Pakistan and the US since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan has imposed new travel restrictions on US diplomats living in the country, a source said yesterday, in the latest sign of ties worsening since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

A letter sent to the US embassy in Islamabad increased limitations on when and how diplomats can move outside the capital, the diplomatic source said, without giving further details.

Pakistan is seen as a key ally for the United States in its fight against Islamist militancy, but relations have soured since US troops killed the Al Qaeda chief in Pakistan in May without informing Islamabad of the raid.

Both governments moved to prevent any public outbreak of disagreement after the restrictions were reported in Pakistani newspapers yesterday.

The US embassy spokesman, Alberto Rodriguez, said: "We are working with the Pakistani government to resolve the issue"

Pakistan's foreign ministry said that "no US-specific restrictions have been applied" on diplomatic travel, but added it was "having a constructive engagement with the US embassy in Islamabad in this regard".

"There are general guidelines regarding travel of Pakistan-based diplomats, designed only to ensure their safety and security, which have existed for a long time," it added in a statement.

A US official told the ABC news channel, which reported on Saturday that the CIA's Islamabad station chief had left Pakistan for medical reasons: "Pakistan has been harassing US personnel working in the country for months."

The US government recently suspended about a third of its $2.7 billion (Dh9.9bn) annual defence aid to Pakistan, but assured Islamabad it was committed to a $7.5bn civilian assistance package approved in 2009.

US officials have long questioned Pakistan's ties with extremists, including the Taliban and the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in Afghanistan.

A British high commission spokesman said the Pakistan government guidelines now being implemented on travel for its diplomatic staff had existed for some time.

Published: August 1, 2011 04:00 AM

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