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Zardari meets Clinton; talks drone strikes, coalition fund

Last updated on: May 21, 2012 12:56 IST
Raising the issue of "drone strikes" and delay in payment of coalition support fund, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, in his meeting with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has called for addressing the issue of trust deficit between the two nations.

Zardari, during the meeting, noted that due to the trust deficit, it would be difficult for Islamabad to rejoin counterterrorism co-operation with the international community.

In his nearly hour-long meeting with Clinton, Zardari said that the goal of establishing a long-term, sustained and durable Pakistan-US equation would remain elusive till the issue of trust deficit continues to haunt the relationship, said the presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar.

"Bridging the trust deficit, the president said, was a must for Pakistan re-joining counterterrorism cooperation with the international community," Babar said after the meeting between Zardari and Clinton on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Chicago, which is being attended by leaders of more than 60 countries.

Zardari said that the public ownership of the efforts against terrorism must not be allowed to get weakened through incidents like Slalala or innocent civilian casualties as a result of drone attacks, the spokesman said.

The Pakistani president said his nation wanted to find a permanent solution to the drone issue as it not only violated its sovereignty but also inflamed public sentiments due to innocent civilian casualties.

According to Babar, Zardari said there is a need to evolve mechanism for counterterrorism co-operation following the path indicated by Pakistan's parliament and asserted that both sides may consider setting a framework of mechanism to find a mutually acceptable alternative.

The spokesperson said that Zardari also raised the issue of CSF reimbursements with Clinton and emphasised upon its early resolution.

Among those present at the meeting were the Pakistan Foreign Minister Hinna Rabbani Khar, Pakistan Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman and the Foreign Secretary Jalil Jillani, besides Babar and others. The US side included the US Ambassador in Pakistan Cameron Munter, the Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Marc Grossman.

During the meeting, Zardari said Pakistan strongly supports an intra-Afghan and Afghan-led reconciliation process and believes that no military solution alone can find a permanent resolution to the problem of militancy and extremism.

A solution must be comprehensive and all-inclusive involving economic development as well, he said.

According to Babar, Clinton said that the US considers Pakistan as an important ally and a partner in the efforts to promote regional stability and peace.

She said that the US wanted to re-engage Pakistan for the regional stability and peace, adding the former respects Parliamentary review process of its relations and was ready to move forward with the Pakistani people.

Zardari, while welcoming the gesture, said that Pakistan also wanted to restore its relations with the US and build an equation, which is long-lasting, sustained and multifaceted and is based on mutual trust and mutual respect.

The two leaders also discussed the regional situation and the steps that Pakistan has taken in the recent past to improve its trade with its neighbours. Discussing regional situation, Zardari said that Pakistan has taken many important initiatives to boost regional trade and regional connectivity.

He said that Pakistan firmly believes that more trade was the only solution in not only bringing forth socio-economic development to the region, but more trade would also lead of realisation for the need to resolve many unresolved and contentious issues in the region, the spokesperson said.

Zardari also asked the US secretary of state to help Pakistan in getting better market access for its product and to help in overcoming the present challenges facing the country such as prevailing energy crisis.

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