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Respect our needs, Obama tells Gilani

28 March, 2012

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SEOUL: US President Barack Obama told Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday he hoped a Pakistan parliamentary review of fraught ties with Washington would be balanced and respect US security needs.

In the highest-level contact between the uneasy allies since US commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad last May, Obama conceded relations had been strained in recent months.

Pakistan's cooperation is considered critical to US efforts to stabilise Afghanistan before most foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014. The US thinks that Pakistan has strong traditional links with the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist groups.

Pakistan's parliament has been drawing up recommendations on how to proceed on ties with Washington, including a halt to US drone strikes in the country that have enraged many Pakistanis.

"I welcome the fact that the parliament in Pakistan is reviewing, after some extensive study, the nature of this relationship," Obama said at the start of the meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

"I think that it's important for us to get it right."

The White House parried the question of whether drone strikes had been discussed during their meeting, saying only that on counter-terrorism, the leaders reviewed how to ensure an ongoing dialogue to improve cooperation.

Gilani said he was pleased to hear Obama talk about sovereignty, and both men spoke of their mutual interest in a stable Pakistan and Afghanistan, putting a measured public face on what has become a severely damaged diplomatic relationship.

Islamabad called the commando raid a violation of its sovereignty, deeply straining ties between the two nations, which sank even further in November when NATO forces in Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani border soldiers by mistake.

Gilani said, "We are committed to fighting against extremism. We want stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We want to work together with you," he told Obama.

"There have been times – I think we should be frank – in the last several months where those relations have experienced strains," Obama said.

Pakistan shut off ground supply lines to the US-led NATO mission in land-locked Afghanistan in the wake of the attack, and forced US personnel off a base used to launch drone strikes against terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Obama said he hoped the parliamentary review would take a "balanced approach that respects Pakistan's sovereignty, but also respects our concerns with respect to our national security and our needs to battle terrorists who have targeted us in the past".

This was the sole reference to bin Laden, whose killing in a military town within several hours' drive of the Pakistani capital strained US belief that he could have lived there for years without the knowledge of someone in the government.

There was also no indication whether Obama and Gilani discussed the killing of al Qaeda leader bin Laden in Abbottabad last May in a US Navy SEAL operation carried out without Islamabad's knowledge. The raid was seen as a humiliation for Pakistan's rulers and armed forces.


Reader Comments:

US President Obama meets PM Gilani

Beyond the public handshakes and pleasantries for the media, there is no ground to build a relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. The anti-Muslim hysteria built by George Bush after 9-11 has been continued by Obama, and the anti-American sentiment is the Muslim world has been rising - not falling!

The U.S. cannot improve its relationship with Pakistan for these reasons: a) 98% of Pakistanis hate the U.S., and don't want to have any relations at all - according to published polls. b) The Pakistanis believe their government is corrupt, and that its politicians work with the U.S. to fatten their wallets. c) The U.S. believe that the Pakistani ISI is colluding with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, finances them, arms them, and keep them well-trained militarily to use as proxies in a war with India scenario. d) The U.S. wants to maintain a foothold presence in Afghanistan to have some influence in Central Asia, but Pakistan doesn't, and the Afghans won't allow that. The U.S. is still in Afghanistan because it spend $ 10 billions a month in the military effort and in bribes to Afghan and Pakistani officials. But the bribes won't last forever! e) The anti-American hostility in the Muslim world is too high to allow any good relations between any Muslim country and the U.S., and it will get worse as the war in Afghanistan continue, the threats against Iran continue, the U.S. depiction of any anti-American Muslims as terrorists continue, and as the Muslim clerics blasting of those U.S. tactics in mosques and the mandrassas continue!

Conclusion: The U.S. and Pakistan are totally "unfit partners," and the relations can get only worse - not better! This is an indisputable fact supported by history, culture and religion. Public handshakes and smiles between Gilani and Obama cannot change that! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Nikos Retsos, United States - 27 March, 2012

US Security

The perimeter and parameters of US security are limitless!

Khadim Karrar, - 27 March, 2012

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