Pak Minister appreciates India's response on peace efforts

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Washington, Jul 12 (UNI) Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has described as positive India's response to Islamabad's peace efforts.

In a wide-ranging interview with Washington Post, Mr Qureshi, who is currently on a visit here, said, ''Pakistan's new government is planning a major effort to improve ties with India.'' The daily said Mr Qureshi had become animated when he discussed the prospects of a rapprochement with India.

He said he had just visited New Delhi, where he told Indian officials, ''an opportunity has come and if they do not grab, it will go,'' The response from Indian officials was positive, he added.

''I see a desire on both sides for normalisation'' Mr Qureshi said, adding, ''My feeling is that people have outpaced the governments. This region has suffered because of our acrimony and hostility, and the world is moving on and we are lagging behind. Nobody is going to be waiting for us.'' Referring to Pakistan's relations with the United States, he said the new government was seeking a "partnership" with the US and wanted tangible signs that the Bush administration would increase aid and embrace Pakistani democracy.

''We want to be positive, we want to cooperate, we want a long-term relationship, we want a partnership. So how serious are you in broadening that relationship -- that is what we want to know,'' the Foreign Minister said.

Mr Qureshi, who met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday in advance of a visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani to Washington later this month, said that the US officials had answered "yes" to his question but "it has to be demonstrated in form." Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the US had provided Pakistan with about 10 billion dollars in aid -- much of it in military assistance -- and pledged 750 million dollars over five years to aid the federal tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

UNI XC SW PM1707

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