Islamabad: Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has called off a planned visit to the US at the eleventh hour after President Barack Obama refused to meet him on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.
The Prime Minister's House announced yesterday that Gilani had called off his visit as he intended to personally supervise relief operations in flood-hit areas of Sindh, but the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying that one reason for the move was the US President's "refusal to meet" Gilani on the sidelines of the UN session in New York.
Gilani has now directed Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to represent Pakistan at the UN General Assembly session.There were indications that the strained relations between Pakistan and the US had led to Gilani cancelling his trip to America, where he was to address the UN General Assembly session, the daily reported. The Pakistan embassy in Washington and the Consulate General in New York had "tried hard to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and President Barack Obama but failed," the report said.
The visit was cancelled at the "eleventh hour" and "all arrangements related to the trip, such as issuance of tickets to members of the delegation and their hotel bookings in New York, had been finalised," the report said.
Supervision of flood relief efforts is an excuse, because only this week the Prime Minister had a couple of days' trip to Iran," a journalist who was to accompany Gilani to New York, was quoted as saying.
Gilani had yesterday responded to the US criticism of Pakistan's efforts in the war on terror by saying that it was "now time that they (United States) should do more" in the campaign against terrorists.
He said Pakistan had "sacrificed much in battling the menace of terrorism" and the country should not be "pressurised to do more." Pakistan-US relations hit a new low after the covert US raid that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad in May.
US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, have recently called on Pakistan to do more against terrorists.
Panetta blamed Pakistan-based militants for the latest Taliban attack on the US embassy in Kabul while Biden described Pakistan as an unreliable ally in the war on terror.
The US has renewed pressure on Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network, which has been linked to the attack on the American embassy in Kabul. The US says the Haqqani network of Taliban has safe havens in Pakistan's tribal belt near the Afghan border