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U.S.-Afghan-Pakistan Talks Postponed, U.S. Says

A U.S.-Afghan-Pakistan meeting scheduled for Feb. 23-24 has been postponed “in light of the political changes in Pakistan,” State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said in an e-mailed statement.

Pakistan formed a new cabinet yesterday and Pakistan’s detention of a U.S. diplomat has raised tensions between the governments in Washington and Islamabad.

“We remain committed to robust engagement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, as we share many issues of mutual concern and benefit from being at the same table,” the U.S. statement said. “We look forward to convening a very productive trilateral meeting at the earliest opportunity.”

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari swore in 22 ministers yesterday, kicking off the formation of a new cabinet under opposition pressure to cut government spending.

The State Department announcement, putting off the meeting until an unspecified future date, also comes at a moment of diplomatic tension between the U.S. and Pakistan over the imprisonment of American diplomat Raymond Davis, who allegedly shot and killed two men Jan. 27 after what he said was a robbery attempt in Lahore.

Diplomatic Immunity

While the U.S. has asserted that Davis should be released because he has diplomatic immunity, that has become a political issue in Pakistan, where there is public pressure to put him on trial.

Davis, a U.S. consulate worker in Lahore, didn’t shoot in self-defense, Lahore’s police chief said yesterday as judge Anik Anwara ordered Davis held for 14 days of investigation. He also directed Pakistan’s government to say clearly whether Davis has diplomatic immunity as the U.S. claims, Pakistan’s GEO television reported.

The Obama administration, which has urged Pakistan’s government and army to provide greater help in the war against Islamic militants in the region, has suspended high-level discussions with Pakistan over Davis’ case, the Washington Post reported this week.

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