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Pakistan's Zardari Calls On U.S. To Boost Aid

President Asif Ali Zardari asked for support in strengthening Pakistan's democracy
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has called on the United States to boost both military and non-military aid to his country to help it fight extremists.

In an opinion piece in “The Washington Post,” Zardari said U.S. President Barack Obama should push Congress to pass legislation introduced last year that would give $1.5 billion a year in aid to Pakistan for social programs.

The United States has supplied billions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan in recent years to help it battle the Taliban and Al-Qaeda along its border with Afghanistan.

"Strengthening our democracy and helping us to improve education, housing and health care is the greatest tool we could wield against extremism," Zardari wrote.

He said Pakistan has made "remarkable progress" in the past several months in its battle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but needed the United States to supply it with the newest military technology and to upgrade its military equipment.

"Give us the tools, and we will get the job done," he wrote.

Zardari welcomed Obama's appointment of veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as a special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but warned that Pakistan's commitment to battling extremists should not be questioned.

"With all due respect, we need no lectures on our commitment. This is our war. It is our children and wives who are dying," Zardari said.

He said he hoped Holbrooke would work to resolve differences between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region, saying it "must be addressed in some meaningful way to bring stability to this region."