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Obama asks for Davis' release

world Updated: Feb 16, 2011 14:36 IST

IANS
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US President Barack Obama has asked Pakistan to treat Raymond Davis, who allegedly shot dead two men in Lahore, as a diplomat and release him.

While insisting that Pakistan must not prosecute Davis, Obama said he was concerned about the loss of Pakistani lives in the incident, the Dawn News reported on Wednesday.

"Obviously we're concerned about the loss of life," Obama said at a press conference in Washington.

However, he said Davis should be treated as a diplomat.

"There's a broader principle at stake that I think we have to uphold."

In his first public remarks on a case that has strained US relations with Pakistan, Obama noted that the Vienna Convention for diplomatic immunity granted Davis some rights, the report said.

"We expect Pakistan to abide by the same convention," he said.

"We're going to be continuing to work with the Pakistani government to get this person released."

Davis, an official with the US diplomatic mission in Lahore, has been in judicial custody pending investigation.

He was arrested Jan 27 for killing two men at an intersection in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

Davis claimed to have acted on self-defence, saying the two men were trying to rob him.

According to US media reports, Pakistani officials would present documents to the Lahore high court to support Davis' claim for immunity.

The US State Department said that it too would provide evidence in the Lahore high court to show that Davis was entitled to diplomatic immunity.

State Department spokesman Philip J Crowley said that the US government would file a petition for Davis' release Thursday and provide evidence of his diplomatic status.

Crowley, however, rejected a suggestion that the US had put its relationship with Pakistan at risk by insisting on Davis' release.

"We are building a strategic partnership with Pakistan. We are going to build this relationship for the long term," he said.

But the US also "respects its international obligations, and we expect other countries, including Pakistan, to do the same".

Crowley rejected Pakistan's former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's claim that Davis was not a diplomat.

"He does have diplomatic immunity. Pakistan has an obligation to certify that under the Vienna Convention, and we continue to engage Pakistan to insist that he be released," said Crowley.