Deadlock over extradition treaty
A LAST-minute death-penalty row has held up the completion of an extradition treaty which could see a key suspect in the foiled plot to bomb transatlantic airliners returned to Britain.
Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had been expected to agree the deal with Pakistan on a visit to Lahore yesterday.
But, dashing British security officials' hopes of a breakthrough, he now is expected to leave the country this morning without having signed the deal.
The Prime Minister yesterday said Britain's relations with Pakistan are strengthening and are now at their "highest point". But the two countries do not have an extradition treaty, something that has hampered terrorist investigations and ordinary criminal cases alike.
It took police more than two years to secure the convictions of the men who killed Kriss Donald, the Glasgow schoolboy, because three of his murderers fled to Pakistan after the attack.
Aftab Sherpao, the Pakistani interior minister, said last week that the treaty has been agreed and simply needs to be signed by the two governments. British officials had also been optimistic.
Mr Blair yesterday held a press conference with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, where the Prime Minister gave thanks for the "increasingly close co-operation" of the Pakistani authorities in assisting with bringing criminal cases in the UK. But he made no mention of the extradition talks, and the treaty was not included in a statement the leaders issued, promising to tackle Islamic extremism.
It is believed that the two governments are still unable to agree about the death penalty: Pakistan routinely executes criminals, but Britain refuses to extradite suspects if they could face that penalty.
Should the deadlock be broken, a treaty could see Rashid Rauf deported to Britain, where police and intelligence officials urgently want to question him about the plot said to have been foiled in August.
Despite Mr Blair's praise for the Pakistani authorities for their help in August, British officials are since said to have become frustrated about the lack of access they have had to Rauf, who is originally from Birmingham.
Rauf was arrested in August in Pakistan, but his exact whereabouts and legal status have been shrouded in secrecy ever since - Pakistani authorities admitted only on 30 October he was in custody.
The veil of secrecy covering Rauf has fuelled suspicions he may have been subjected to controversial interrogation techniques and even torture in secret detention facilities in Pakistan.
In August, Britain requested Rauf's extradition, in connection with a 2002 murder case not connected to terrorism, but the Pakistanis have so far made no move to hand him over.
SHOULD Tony Blair wish to keep the gun he was given yesterday, he will have to pay the Treasury its equivalent value, less 140. Should he decline to do so, it will become state property, alongside at least four cases of wine the French tried to give Mr Blair last year. In recent years, Mr Blair has also been given several expensive watches by the Italians, but chose not to keep them.
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