Sunday, April 20, 2014


Pakistan

U.S. Defense Chief Meets With Pakistani PM

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (file photo)U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (file photo)
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U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (file photo)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (file photo)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has held talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad amid U.S. efforts to reduce tensions over drone strikes.

Hagel flew from Kabul to Islamabad to meet with the prime minister and with the country's new army chief, General Raheel Sharif.

It is the most senior Pentagon visit to Pakistan since then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited in January 2010.

Hagel's visit comes at a time of tensions in relations due to U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan, particularly the tribal areas in the west, though there have been some signs of improvement.

A Pakistan government statement said Sharif "reaffirmed Pakistan's support for the Afghan peace and reconciliation process."

The statement also said that Sharif "conveyed Pakistan's deep concern over continuing U.S. drone strikes, stressing that drone strikes were counterproductive to our efforts to combat terrorism."

U.S. President Barack Obama has defended the use of drone strikes as an effective tool used with restraint to target suspected militants.

Sharif met with Obama in late October.

The Pentagon said ahead of the visit that Hagel was looking forward to "candid and productive conversations" about ways to address common threats and help promote stability in neighboring Afghanistan.

Hagel flew to Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he visited U.S. troops but declined to meet with President Hamid Karzai, who has frustrated U.S. officials by refraining from signing a security agreement before year's end.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa

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