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US Senator Predicts Row Over Detained American in Pakistan Will Soon be Resolved

Senator John Kerry (l) and Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in Islamabad, February 16, 2011
Senator John Kerry (l) and Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in Islamabad, February 16, 2011

U.S. Senator John Kerry said on Wednesday during a visit to Islamabad that the arrest of an American official in Pakistan on charges of double murder has become a "complicated political issue" but that he is confident the two countries will be able to resolve it soon.

Kerry, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, traveled to Pakistan to try and defuse bilateral tensions sparked by the arrest a State Department employee, Raymond Davis, accused of killing two Pakistanis.

Kerry held extensive talks with government officials, opposition politicians and Pakistani military leaders in a bid to resolve the dispute quickly. Speaking to reporters at the end of his visit, he said he had reiterated Washington's position that Davis had immunity from prosecution under international laws covering diplomats.

"We made it very clear obviously what our position is and I think people understand it," said Senator Kerry. "But I did not come here to make demands and to offer ultimatums. I came here to listen and to work with everybody to find the best ways of resolving what has obviously become a more complicated political issue. I think there is a way forward; I feel very confident about it."

The shooting incident took place in the eastern city of Lahore nearly three weeks ago. The detained U.S. official says he killed the two men in self-defense when they tried to rob him at gunpoint. But the Pakistani police have rejected his claim. They say their investigation found that the American committed "cold-blooded murder." The police have recommended Davis be tried on murder charges.

U.S. President Obama says Davis has diplomatic immunity and has urged Pakistan to release him. But Pakistani officials say the question of Davis's immunity will be determined by the country's superior court.

Senator Kerry said the purpose of his trip to Pakistan was to make sure this one incident does not damage relations between the two allies in the war against terrorism.

"President [Barack] Obama and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton have personally asked me to convey to the people of Pakistan our deepest sorrow for the loss of life that occurred there in that tragic incident," he said. "We all feel the pain and the anguish of families who have lost loved ones. We understand what that is like."

Senator Kerry said he was leaving Pakistan with assurances from his Pakistani interlocutors that they will try to find ways to resolve the issue in the next few days.

"So now everybody has to work in goodwill to make the words mean something," said Kerry. "They will only mean something with actions that result in an appropriate and judicious outcome being accomplished. I think that will be done."

Pakistani officials so far have avoided clear statements on whether the jailed American is a diplomat. A court in Lahore is due to discuss the issue of immunity for Raymond Davis on Thursday, and it has been reported that prosecutors will argue before the judge that the American is shielded by diplomatic immunity. But legal experts say the Pakistani court will likely have the final say in the case.

During his stay in Pakistan, Senator Kerry promised that the U.S. government will launch its own criminal investigation into the incident if the U.S. national is freed.