Pakistan PM Gilani seeks to calm military tensions

Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani chairs defence committee meeting. 14 Jan 2010
Image caption Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani chaired the meeting of the defence committee

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani says his government fully supports the armed forces, amid a deepening crisis with the military.

Mr Gilani spoke after a meeting of the cabinet's defence committee in the capital Islamabad.

Last month Mr Gilani said conspirators were plotting to bring down his government, without specifically blaming the military.

The government faces a crucial vote of confidence in parliament on Monday.

"Our government and parliament, and above all our patriotic people, have stood fully behind our brave armed forces and security personnel," Mr Gilani said.

"It has been my government's policy to allow and enable all state institutions to play their role in their respective domains," he added.

He described the armed forces as "a pillar of the nation's resilience and strength".

Hours earlier, Mr Gilani held talks with army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. It was the first face-to-face talks between the two since tensions erupted in public earlier this week.

Pakistan has suffered three military coups since independence in 1947.

Despite current tensions, correspondents say another coup is unlikely and they instead predict early elections, possibly in the next few months.

Several public disputes have brought relations between the government and the military to an all-time low.

The rift began with an anonymous memo apparently seeking US help to avert a possible military coup following the killing by US forces of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden last May.

It is not clear who wrote the memo or conveyed it to Washington. US officials say they received the memo but took no action.

Gen Kayani has since dismissed rumours of a coup.

Saturday's defence committee meeting also discussed new rules of co-operation with Nato following air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Mr Gilani said a full review of the terms of co-operation with Nato was continuing.

Monday's vote of confidence will be held as a Supreme Court deadline for the government to reopen cases of political corruption expires.

The deadline was set after the court quashed a government amnesty for politicians, including Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, and is seen as a direct challenge to the government.

Correspondents says Mr Gilani is likely to win the vote of confidence, and that parliament's seal of approval will probably to strengthen his hand.

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