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Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. says officials are working things out

By the CNN Wire Staff
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U.S. cutting aid to Pakistan
  • NEW: Haqqani says U.S. needs to understand "brandishing aid as a weapon" not good idea
  • NEW: Pakistani military spokesman Abbas vows continued collaboration with United States
  • Comments come one day after U.S. said it is withholding $800 million in aid to Islamabad
  • Senior U.S. officials say the curtailing of aid was done to pressure Pakistan

Washington (CNN) -- Pakistan's ambassador to the United States said Monday officials "are working things out," one day after the United States said it was withholding $800 million in aid to Islamabad.

Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Husain Haqqani downplayed the significance of the aid decision and stressed the relationship between the two countries "goes beyond aid."

"We are talking to each other, at every level," he said. "In private, the U.S. officials and Pakistani officials are working things out. In public, everything that is negative gets amplified."

"Pakistan is not happy with the pace of delivery of assistance. Americans are not happy at the pace of delivery of certain deliverables from Pakistan. It happens sometimes," he said.

Haqqani also stressed that Americans need to understand that "brandishing aid as a weapon of influence all the time is not a good idea. It insults the people of Pakistan."

We are talking to each other, at every level
--Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States
U.S. and Pakistan in 'downward spiral'

Haqqani spoke the same day the Pakistani military spokesman said his country will continue to collaborate with the United States against terrorism.

"These are the terrorists, al Qaeda, which are common enemy of Pakistan as well as U.S. and other western countries, and therefore in this the CIA and the ISI are cooperating toward eliminating the common enemy," Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said in an interview aired by NPR.

Abbas was referring to the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Pakistan's intelligence agency.

That announcement came a day after White House Chief of Staff William Daley confirmed a report in the New York Times that the aid was being withheld.

Read more on questions over alliance

While Pakistan has "been an important ally in the fight on terrorism," Daley told ABC's "This Week," "now they've taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we're giving to the military, and we're trying to work through that."

Senior U.S. officials, who declined to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the curtailing of aid, which represents a third of U.S. security assistance to Pakistan, was done both to pressure Pakistan to crack down on militants and as retribution for expelling U.S. military trainers.

The funding includes $300 million to compensate Pakistan for the cost of deploying more than 100,000 troops to its border with Afghanistan to combat extremists. Hundreds of millions in training assistance and military hardware is also on the chopping block.

Officials said that still other portions of the aid cannot be sent because Pakistan has denied visas to U.S. personnel needed to operate the equipment, which includes helicopter spare parts, radios and night-vision goggles.

"In many cases the personnel and the equipment comes as a package," one senior official said.

The aid also includes rifles, ammunition and body armor that Army special forces trainers took with them when they were thrown out of the country after Pakistan ended an American program to train Pakistani troops combating the Taliban and al Qaeda in the country's tribal and border areas.

"We remain committed to helping Pakistan build its capabilities, but we have communicated to Pakistani officials on numerous occasions that we require certain support in order to provide certain assistance," a senior State Department official said. "Working together, allowing an appropriate presence for U.S. military personnel, providing necessary visas, and affording appropriate access are among the things that would allow us to effectively provide assistance."

The move comes amid intense pressure among lawmakers to halt U.S. security assistance to Pakistan. Last week, the House approved a Pentagon budget bill that limits funding for Pakistan's military until the secretaries of defense and state submit a report to Congress explaining how the money will be spent to combat militants.

"When it comes to our military aid," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate panel last month, "we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it unless and until we see certain steps taken."

Tensions between the United States and Pakistan, further aggravated by the May 1 U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, continue to mount. Last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen stepped up U.S. rhetoric against Pakistan, becoming the first American official to publicly accuse Pakistan of sanctioning the murder of journalist, Saleem Shahzad, who was critical of the regime.

The Pakistani military and the ISI denied involvement in Shahzad's killing, and Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan called Mullen's statement irresponsible.

The senior State Department official said that, while the United States wants a "constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan," Washington is urging Islamabad to strengthen its cooperation toward the two countries' "shared security goals."

"We are taking a very clear-eyed approach to our relationship with Pakistan -- weighing both the importance of a continued long-term relationship and the importance of near-term action on key issues," the official said.

On the ABC program Sunday, Daley said the U.S. relationship with Pakistan "is very complicated," given that the U.S. military carried out its attack on bin Laden's compound inside Pakistan without having first alerted the Pakistani government to its plan.

"Obviously there's still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden," although the United States has "no regrets," he said. The relationship with Pakistan "is difficult, but it must be made to work over time," he said.

"But until we get through these difficulties, we'll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give."

CNN's Reza Sayah and Elise Labott contributed to this report.