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Nawaz wants immediate end to US drone strikes

20 October, 2013

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LONDON: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Saturday that drone attacks are "assaults on independence of Pakistan" and they should be stopped at once.

Talking to the media during his short stay in London en-route to the US, the prime minister said that drone strikes are against sovereignty of Pakistan and he will raise the issue during his meeting with US President Barack Obama.

Drone attacks were also creating hatred against US among the countrymen which often result in resistance, he added. The prime minister said that during his meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly he also kept the drone attack issue at the top of agenda and demanded that the US stop them.

He said that during his upcoming meeting with the US president, vital issues including drone strikes, stability of the region and position of Afghanistan after withdrawal of allied forces will come under discussion.

Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan is in favour of restoration of peace in Afghanistan but did not support any group or party, adding that it would extend support to all those who will work for stability and peace.

He assured that energy crisis was going to end soon and power tariff will also be decreased with the increase in power generation.

The prime minister said that strict action was being taken against the elements involved in power theft and steps were being taken to discourage the corrupt officials.

Nawaz Sharif will hold talks with Barack Obama next week on wide-ranging issues. In addition to discussing ways to strengthen bilateral trade and economic cooperation, the two sides will avail the opportunity to deliberate on regional peace and security issues as the White House looks forward to listening to the views of the new Pakistani government.

The October 23 meeting at the White House takes place as Washington and Islamabad expect a new phase in their relationship when the US forces draw down from Afghanistan after more than 12 years of war on Pakistan's western border.

During the visit, the prime minister will also interact with key senior US administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as Congressional leaders. "Though the secretary is travelling early next week, he will also be meeting with Prime Minister Sharif and his delegation on Sunday prior to his departure," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Friday.

Over much of the past decade since 9/11, Afghan war-related security issues overshadowed the broad range of cooperative ties between Pakistan and the United States but US Special Envoy James Dobbins recently underscored the importance of re-focusing on tremendous potential of the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship, independent of the Afghan war, which officially ends by 2014.

"The impending coalition exit from Afghanistan is a short-term issue. A stable and prosperous Pakistan is what will matter most for the long run," Shuja Nawaz, who heads the South Asian Center at Washington's Atlantic Council, wrote in the Foreign Policy magazine on the eve of the visit.

The prime minister is expected to call for expansion in trade and economic areas.

According to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who was in Washington last week for World Bank-IMF meetings, the prime minister believes in fostering long-term relations on the basis of aid, and not aid.

Ahead of the visit, the United States has released an outstanding amount of $322 million as reimbursement from the Coalition Support Funds. Pakistan-India relations may also figure during the meeting.

The prime minister is also expected to express Pakistan's views in the regional security perspective, particularly in view of 2014 Afghan transition and implications of the developments in the neighbouring country for Pakistan.

End.

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