Washington, April 4 (IANS) The United States has attributed the inordinate delay in announcing a $10 million US bounty on Lashkar-i-Taiba chief Hafeez Saeed, alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, to its the long drawn review process.
"This is a lot of money for the US taxpayer to put up, and so that process takes some time," State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Tuesday denying Saeed's suggestion that it was intended to pressure Pakistan to reopen supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
"No, it has everything to do with Mumbai and his brazen flouting of the justice system," she asserted.
"Things have to be correlated. There is an entire review process. There's an inter-agency rewards committee that has to look through this, and then the secretary has to approve it," said Nuland but could not tell "whether right after the bombing we looked at this at that time."
Asked if the US had talked to Pakistani authorities seeking his arrest, Nuland said: "Absolutely. We have been in communication with Pakistan on this issue."
"The government of Pakistan has regularly, in our conversations with them, pledged its cooperation in the investigations," she said.
Meanwhile, investigative Journal ProPublica said the offer of the reward for Saeed and his deputy Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki is clearly intended to increase pressure on Lashkar, the ISI and the Pakistani government.
The announcements "show how much US-Pakistani relations have deteriorated as the Obama administration has taken a harder line with Islamabad," it said.
When admitted Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley was indicted in late 2009, US authorities tried to avoid diplomatic tensions by refraining from publicly identifying Lashkar masterminds of the Mumbai attack, it noted.
"This is a name-and-shame tactic directed at two of the most public figures in Lashkar," said Stephen Tankel, an American University professor and author of the book "Storming the World Stage" about the group.
"It appears to be part of a long-term effort to exert pressure on the Pakistani government."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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