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Courts Will Decide Diplomatic Status of Detained American, Says Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani (file photo - January 12, 2011)
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani (file photo - January 12, 2011)

Pakistan's prime minister says his country's courts will decide whether a U.S. consulate employee who killed two Pakistani's has diplomatic immunity.

Yousuf Raza Gilani also says relatives of the victims families could also approve the release of the U.S. official, identified as Raymond Davis, if compensated for their loss. Up to now, relatives of the victims have rejected compensation, saying they want Davis brought to justice in Pakistan.

Gilani's comments come as U.S. Senator John Kerry is visiting Pakistan to discuss the case. On Wednesday he met with Gilani and is also meeting with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari.

U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that Raymond Davis has diplomatic immunity and that the United States expects Pakistan to abide by international conventions.

He also urged Pakistan to immediately free Davis, who is accused of killing the Pakistanis during an alleged attempted robbery in the eastern city of Lahore last month.

Earlier Wednesday, Pakistan's former foreign minister said Davis does not have blanket diplomatic immunity as Washington maintains.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Wednesday that before he left the cabinet last week, advisors told him the American did not qualify for blanket immunity.

When he arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday, Kerry expressed regret about the incident, and told reporters in Islamabad the U.S. will conduct a criminal investigation into the case.

For his part, Mr. Obama stressed the U.S. is not "callous" about the loss of life. However, he said it will continue to work with Pakistan to secure Davis' release.

The U.S. says Davis acted in self-defense when armed men tried to rob him. But Pakistani police have called him a "cold-blooded murderer." Pakistani officials say the case will be decided by a court.

The case has heightened tensions between the two countries.

Related report by VOA's Ravi Khanna