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Obama Wants Pakistan To Respect U.S. Security Needs

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama has met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in the highest-level official contact between the two countries since a U.S. commando raid last year killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of a nuclear security conference in Seoul on March 27.

Ties between Islamabad and Washington were strained by the raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad near a Pakistani military academy. The killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO air strikes in November near the Afghan border further damaged relations.

Obama told reporters he hopes a Pakistani parliamentary review of Islamabad's ties with Washington will respect U.S. security needs and allow continued operations targeting militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border zone.

"There have been times -- I think we should be frank -- over the last several months where those relations have experienced strains," Obama said, "but I welcome the fact that the Parliament of Pakistan is reviewing, after some extensive study, the nature of this relationship."

Obama stressed the need for candid dialogue in order to work out contentious issues between Islamabad and Washington in a constructive and transparent fashion.

He said he hopes that the two sides achieve 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."

Gilani said he was pleased to hear Obama talk about the importance of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Both leaders 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.

"We are committed to fight against extremism and terrorism," Gilani said. "It is in the interest of Pakistan for a stable, peaceful, prosperous, independent, sovereign Afghanistan. We want stability in Afghanistan. If there is stability in Afghanistan, there is stability in Pakistan."

Islamabad blocked NATO's ground supply routes through Pakistan for alliance forces in Afghanistan after the November air strikes. It also evicted U.S. personnel from Shamsi Air Field in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan in response to the NATO air strikes. That air field had been used as a station for U.S. pilotless drone strikes against militants along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

With AP and Reuters reporting