U.S. thanks Pakistan after contractor pardoned

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:27am EDT

A U.S. consulate employee is escorted by police and officials out of court after facing a judge in Lahore, January 28, 2011. REUTERS/Tariq Saeed

A U.S. consulate employee is escorted by police and officials out of court after facing a judge in Lahore, January 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Tariq Saeed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan on Wednesday confirmed that a CIA contractor held on murder charges had been pardoned and released by a Pakistani court and thanked the victims' families for agreeing to the deal.

"The families of the victims of the January 27 incident in Lahore have pardoned Raymond Davis. I am grateful for their generosity. I wish to express, once again, my regret for the incident," Ambassador Cameron Munter said in a statement released by the State Department.

A U.S. official said Davis was flown out of Pakistan on Wednesday after being acquitted following a deal to pay "blood money" to the victims' families, removing a significant irritant in the already rocky relationship between Washington and Islamabad.

"Davis was released from Pakistani custody and is out of the country. There was no quid pro quo," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Munter said the U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the incident involving Davis, who shot dead two Pakistanis in the eastern Punjab city of Lahore on January 27 after what he described as an attempted armed robbery.

Davis said he acted in self-defense and the United States says he had diplomatic immunity and should have been immediately repatriated.

Munter, underscoring his "respect for Pakistan and its people," said the United States remained committed to working with Pakistan "to move ahead in ways that will benefit us all."

The case tested ties between the United States and Pakistan, a vital ally in the U.S.-led campaign against Taliban militants in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's powerful religious parties had tried to block the deal.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Andrew Quinn; editing by Eric Beech)

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