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Pakistani prime minister sees progress in U.S. ties
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“I think we have evolved some mechanisms, and we are ready to cooperate,” Mr. Gilani said, referring to meetings with Afghanistan’s military and intelligence chiefs on a framework for talks. “We are committed (to reconciliation), despite that we are not attending” the conference on Afghanistan, he said.
Speaking in Bonn, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it “was unfortunate that Pakistan didn’t participate” but said she was encouraged by Mr. Gilani’s remarks, presumably to the AP, that the U.S and Pakistan will continue cooperation.
“I expect that Pakistan will be involved going forward, and we expect them to play a constructive role,” Mrs. Clinton said.
The civilian government that Mr. Gilani heads is in many respects subservient to the army, which formulates Afghan policy. Mr. Gilani is unlikely to say anything that does not broadly reflect the thinking of the army.
This year’s crises in Pakistan-U.S. ties included an incident in which an American CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis on the street in Lahore. The previous disputes have been patched up, though at a cost of dwindling trust and expectations on both sides.
Pakistan, despite the fiercely anti-American rhetoric of its people, many of its lawmakers and — increasingly after the NATO strike — its army, relies on Washington for military and civilian aid to maintain some parity with its regional foe India, as well as diplomatic legitimacy.
In Mr. Gilani’s office, along with photos of his children, are two pictures of the prime minister with then-President George W. Bush in Washington. There’s also a signed note from Mr. Bush in 2008 pledging continued support for Mr. Gilani’s efforts to bring stability to the country and thanks for “the fine-looking gun” he had brought him as a gift.
Besides boycotting the Bonn talks and blocking supplies, Pakistan gave the U.S. 15 days to vacate Shamsi Air Base, which has been used by American drones to strike militants along the Afghan border. U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter said in a local TV interview that Washington was doing its best to comply with the demand to leave the base.
The move was not expected to significantly curtail drone attacks in Pakistan since Shamsi was used only to service drones that had mechanical or weather difficulties. NATO officials say that the supply-line blockage is not affecting operations but that a stoppage of more than a month would begin to hurt.
Washington and Islamabad have given differing accounts of what led to the airstrikes on the Pakistani army posts last month, in what is at least the third such incident along the porous and poorly defined border since 2008.
U.S. officials have said the incident occurred when a joint U.S. and Afghan patrol requested air support after coming under fire. The U.S. checked with the Pakistan military to see if there were friendly troops in the area and were told there were not, they said.
Pakistan has said the coordinates given by the Americans were wrong — an allegation denied by U.S. defense officials.
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