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Pakistan Presses US to Probe Koran Allegations


Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, meets Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad
Pakistan has again urged the United States to conduct a "comprehensive inquiry" into the alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay prison and award "stern punishment" to anyone found guilty of what it calls a "reprehensible" act. Pakistani leaders raised the issue in meetings with a senior U.S. diplomat for South Asia visiting Pakistan.

Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca met with President Pervez Musharraf and other senior Pakistani officials Thursday to discuss, among other things, bilateral, economic and defense ties.

A foreign ministry statement says Pakistani leaders also conveyed strong sentiments of the people of Pakistan on the alleged desecration of the Koran at the U.S-controlled Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

The statement quoted Ms. Rocca as saying to Pakistani officials that U.S authorities are investigating the alleged incident and those found guilty will be brought to justice.

The assistant secretary of state also held separate talks with senior members of parliament from both ruling and opposition parties.

On Thursday, she signed four agreements to provide nearly $150 million to Pakistan to assist ongoing projects in the social sector. Speaking to reporters after the signing ceremony, Ms. Rocca discussed the significance of the agreements.

"The programs support enhanced growth and stability in Pakistan," she said. "It's helping to improve education and healthcare, create jobs and economic opportunities and strengthening democratic governance nationwide. "

The financial assistance will be given to Pakistan by the U.S. agency for International Development. After becoming a vital ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistan has received significant U.S. economic and political support.

Assistant secretary Rocca's visit comes as Islamic parities plan nationwide rallies on Friday to protest the alleged desecration of the Koran. Anti-America sentiment has risen in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan since earlier this month when a U.S. magazine reported details of the incident.

However, Newsweek magazine later withdrew its story and apologized. But Pakistani government and Islamic parties have said this is not enough and have demanded the United States share findings of its investigation.

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