Bush administration finds no legal reason to cut US aid to Pakistan

The Bush administration has concluded it is not legally required to cut or suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan despite President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of a state of emergency and crackdown on the opposition and independent media. US assistance to the key anti-terrorism and nuclear armed ally - which has totaled nearly $10 billion since 2001 - is governed by numerous legislative requirements that could trigger automatic aid cutoffs, but all are covered by locked-in presidential waivers, according to officials familiar with the findings a government-wide review. Those waivers, which exempt Pakistan from aid restrictions, do not need to be renewed until Congress approves the pending budget for the current fiscal year that began on October and requests $845 million for Pakistan, the officials said, citing preliminary determinations from the interagency review that began this week after Musharraf's action. The initial findings do not mean that aid to Pakistan will never be cut, only that there is currently no statutory reason to do so, that official and two others said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the review is not yet finalized. It was not immediately clear on Friday when it would be complete.