AFP | March 26, 2008

President George W. Bush has cleared the way for giving millions of dollars to Pakistan to fight terrorism this year, the White House said Tuesday as a new government took power in Islamabad.

In a memo to the secretary of state dated Monday, Bush used his authority to exempt Pakistan from a law that restricts funding countries where the legitimate head of state was deposed by a military coup, as in Pakistan.

The waiver, which Bush has approved every year since 2003, opens the way for the United States to provide about 300 million dollars this year to key "war on terror" ally Pakistan to boost its counter-terrorism operations.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the Bush administration still had concerns about the human rights situation in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf took power by force in 1999, but stressed its major strategic role.

"Pakistan is a key ally in the ‘war on terror.’ The Pakistani government is conducting military, police, and intelligence operations to fight terrorist groups on Pakistani soil and bring terrorists to justice," Johndroe said.

The White House said Bush had asked the US Congress for about 300 million dollars for security assistance in Pakistan.

The announcement came as Pakistan’s new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, a key aide of slain opposition icon Benazir Bhutto, was sworn in by Musharraf after being picked as premier by parliament on Monday.

He will lead a coalition of Musharraf’s opponents, who won general elections last month and who have indicated they plan to review the president’s cooperation with the United States.

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