WASHINGTON — A standoff between the United States and Pakistan over a jailed American embassy worker took an ominous turn Friday when police accused the man of "cold-blooded murder" and the United States responded with thinly veiled threats to cut valued aid and access for Pakistan unless he is released immediately.
The case of Raymond Davis has opened one of the worst breaches in memory between the United States and a critical counterterrorism partner. His detention has become a point of national honor for both nations, and a rallying point for anti-American suspicion in Pakistan.
U.S. officials said they were likely to postpone an invitation to Pakistan's foreign minister to visit Washington this month, the Associated Press reported Friday, citing unnamed officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is before a court.
The officials said the Obama administration is also considering a slowdown in visa processing for Pakistanis seeking to come to the United States. That would be unpopular in Pakistan, where grievance already runs high over the perception that the United States discriminates in granting visas to Pakistanis.
The United States is also weighing whether to cut back on military and educational training programs with the Pakistani armed forces and civilian educational, scientific, cultural and local and state government exchanges, one official said.
Pakistan is considered a key to U.S. success in neighboring Afghanistan, and although the country's leaders rely on U.S. aid and protection, some have warned that the Davis case hits too close to the nerve for ordinary Pakistanis.
Davis, 36, claims he shot and killed two Pakistanis in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore on Jan. 27 because they were trying to rob him. He has been jailed since despite U.S. claims that he holds diplomatic immunity and acted in self-defense.
On Friday a Pakistani judge ordered Davis jailed an additional 14 days and police termed the incident "cold-blooded murder." The U.S. consul general in Lahore, Carmela Conroy, responded with a stern demand for his prompt release. She implied that Pakistani authorities were overlooking facts in the case, including that one of the dead men was armed, in order to make an example of Davis.