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Pakistan PM urges swift US funds for anti-Taliban battle

world Updated: Sep 08, 2009 12:25 IST

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has urged the United States to speed up delivery of aid, saying the nation needed more aircraft, ammunition and funds to battle Taliban rebels.

US officials have praised Pakistan's recent military offensives against the Taliban in northwest Swat region, while operations are expanding into the insurgent strongholds in the semi-autonomous tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Speaking to a US congressional delegation in the capital Islamabad, Gilani "called on the US to expedite passage" of bills that would see aid to Pakistan tripled, the prime minister's office said in a statement late on Monday.

Aid was key to upholding peace in Swat and the tribal regions by funding healthcare, industry and infrastructure, the prime minister said.

He added that, "Pakistan's Armed Forces needed immediate replenishment of aviation spares and ammunition as well as the much-needed helicopters and counter intelligence equipment for winning the war against terrorism."

The US senate in June approved a bill which provides 7.5 billion dollars in humanitarian and economic aid over five years and recommends that level for another five years while tying US military aid to progress against extremists.

The so-called Kerry-Lugar bill now needs to be reconciled with the House of Representatives version before President Barack Obama can sign it into law.

There are also pending requests for separate military aid, amid caution from some US senators who have criticised the previous Bush administration for piling billions of dollars into Pakistan's military with little accountability.

Pakistan's security forces launched a military push against Taliban fighters in the once-peaceful Swat valley in late April, and now claim to have killed more than 2,000 rebel fighters and crushed the insurgents.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday praised Pakistan's handling of extremist threats, hailing the army and government's unpredicted "success" and saying they had "performed admirably."

Washington has put Pakistan at the heart of its fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but some analysts have warned that Islamabad appears to be pursuing militants that pose a domestic threat, rather then Islamist groups which target foreign troops over the border in Afghanistan.