February 29, 2016 / 6:53 PM / 3 years ago

Pakistan not to blame for Afghan troubles, official says on U.S. visit

Advisor to Pakistan's Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz listens to a question during a news conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan should not be blamed for carrying out a “duplicitous policy” or for the problems of Afghanistan, a senior Pakistan official said on Monday at the start of talks in the United States.

U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern about a possible sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan because of its impact on relations with India and Pakistan’s policies in Afghanistan, but national security adviser Sartaj Aziz said the sale would help stability in the region.

“We are blamed (for) pursuing a duplicitous policy,” Aziz said to reporters and U.S. and Pakistani officials before the meetings in Washington began.

“Regrettably there is a tendency to blame Pakistan, in (a) somewhat simplistic fashion for most of the difficulties and challenges that engage Afghanistan,” Aziz said.

The U.S. government announced on Feb. 12 that it had approved the sale to Pakistan of up to eight additional F-16 fighter jets, and radar and other equipment in a deal valued at $699 million.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker told Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter that he was concerned about Pakistan’s ties to the Haqqani network, a militant group that U.S. officials have said is behind attacks in Afghanistan.

U.S. lawmakers have until March 12 to block the sale. Such action is rare since deals are usually well vetted before any formal notification, and it remained unclear if lawmakers would thwart the agreement.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to conduct a hearing on the possible sale.

Afghan government and Taliban representatives are expected to meet in Islamabad by the first week of March for their first direct talks since a previous round of the peace process broke down last year.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Grant McCool

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