Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Pakistan officials in Washington for discussions

AFP , WASHINGTON

Senior Pakistani officials were in Washington yesterday to discuss issues related to cooperation against extremism, where Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the army, held a “strategic dialogue” with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The US has cautiously welcomed what it sees as a shift in Pakistan and is looking to prove its commitment to a long-term partnership.

Pakistan has come with a detailed wish list in areas from improving access to water and energy to securing lethal drones.

“We have a relationship that goes back 60 years, but I’m here to build a partnership,” Qureshi said on Tuesday.

Islamabad wants to reach an agreement to cooperate on civilian nuclear energy, which could tacitly recognize Pakistan as the Islamic world’s sole nuclear power.

US officials have publicly sidestepped the issue. Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, said only “we’re ready to listen to anything.”

Asked if nuclear cooperation could assuage Pakistan’s energy crisis, Clinton said there were “more immediate steps that can be taken,” including upgrading power plants.

Pakistan, who so far only has surveillance drones, is also seeking unmanned attack drones from Washington.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell downplayed expectations for major announcements, saying it was a mistake to see the dialogue as “a discussion of requests and replies.”

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