ISLAMABAD (APP) - The US embassy in Islamabad is being expanded to meet future challenges with provision of better and comprehensive cooperation for increasing economic assistance being given to Pakistan in the next couple of years. Deputy Chief of US Mission in Islamabad Gerald M Feierstein talking to a group of newsmen here at the US embassy said upcoming large-scale programmes needed more staff but categorically rejected the induction of 1,000 US Marines in this strength. Refuting the news items about arrival of 1,000 US Marines to Pakistan, the Deputy Chief of US Mission in Islamabad said about 20 US Marines are in Pakistan to fulfil security responsibilities of the embassy and other installations and there will be marginal increase in their strength after the expansion in embassy staff. He said due to increase in aid to Pakistan under Kerry-Lugar Bill that will be $1.5 billion per year US embassy needs more staff and personnel to deal with the increasing work in this regard. Deputy Chief of US Mission said there are about 250 American personnel assigned different duties in Pakistan while over 1,000 Pakistani staff working here and in view of increasing financial assistance to Pakistan under Kerry-Lugar bill, the strength of the US embassy personnel will be increased. About speculation in the increase of US Marines in Pakistan, he said, every US coming to Pakistan came after permission from Pakistan government as they came here on visas. He said the figures published in the press about US Marines was wrong and baseless as it is not true. He said, Any adjustment in the number of present US Marines will be minor and they will be responsible for the security of embassy and classified material. Commenting on the expansion of the US embassy, he said, present building is 40 years old and due to increase in the projects for bilateral cooperation, the embassy needs more space and workplace. About expansion and construction of new building for US embassy, he said, the embassy has acquired 18 acres of land from Capital Development Authority and paid the price according to the rules and regulation and it was on the rates as acquired by other embassies in the area. He said as the economic aid to Pakistan is being increased from $350 to 400 million per year to $1.5 billion, therefore, the embassy needs more staff to handle the projects and that is why expansion of the embassy was planned. He said the increased staff needed for implementing the projects and to ensure that money is being spent in a right way. The new US embassy, he said would be completed in next five to six years and will replace all the existing building, offices and other facilities for providing proper place for all the sections of the embassy. He said similarly, the embassy is also looking for new sites for its consulates at Karachi and Peshawar. The State Department has approved one billion dollars for the new US embassy building in Islamabad, he added. The new building, he said, would have residential quarters, work places and recreational facilities. Replying to a question about the increase in the US embassy staff, the Deputy Chief of the US Mission said everything is transparent and in the knowledge of the Pakistan Government and especially the Foreign Office here in Islamabad as every American staff including the Marine has to apply for visa to come to Pakistan. He referred the examples of Egypt, Kabul and Baghdad, where the presence of US officials are more as compared to other countries due to increase in the workload at these places and added that similar situation is for Pakistan. Answering a question regarding increase in the US staff for Pakistan, he said primarily it will be for next five years as the Kerry-Lugar Bill is for five years. He further said there is a clause in the bill that in case of good and positive relations with Pakistan, $1.5 billion would continue for another five years, therefore, the increase in staff will continue for the next five years and then it would be re-examined. Commenting on the criticism from some of the political leaders, the Deputy Chief of the US Mission said the embassy has constant contacts with all the political parties and took them in confidence in all the policies. He said concern of some of the politicians was due to misleading stories published in a section of the press on the issue of number of US Marines. Deputy Chief of the US Mission said US is helping Pakistan so that it can defeat the extremist and militants. Replying to a question about complaints against a US diplomat working in US Consulate in Peshawar, the Deputy Chief of the Mission said no US official has neither been declared 'Persona Non Grata by Foreign Office of Pakistan and nor any one is being investigated in this regard. He said no body is under consideration for being declared PNG. Commenting on the Pak-US people to people ties and presence of misunderstandings, he said there is perception that it is present on both sides. He said, We need to continue to work on bilateral ties. He said there is commitment on both the sides that will overpower those elements who are working to take advantage to raise questions in Pak-US relations. He said some of the political parties do have different agenda and working to damage Pak-US relations but claimed that they have very limited response in the general public.