Obama pledges to take multi-faceted, strategic relationship with Pak forward

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Washington, Apr.12 (ANI): US President Barack Obama on Monday said that Washington's multi-faceted and long-term strategic relationship with Islamabad goes far beyond security issues, and reiterated the U.S. pledge to work with Pakistan to address issues of mutual concern.

Interacting with Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at Blair House here ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit, Obama, who was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said he was very fond of Pakistan, and his administration is keen to take the strategic relationship with Islamabad forward.

Both leaders reaffirmed the positive relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, describing it as "a relationship of significant importance because of the shared values of our countries and the fight we are both engaged in against extremists operating in South Asia."

Sources privy to the meeting said that President Obama also expressed his appreciation to Prime Minister Gilani for the quick reaction of Pakistani security forces to the terrorist attack on the American Consulate in Peshawar on April 5, and expressed his condolences at the Pakistani casualties from that attack.

He also condemned the attack on a rally in Lower Dir on the same day and condoled the loss of lives.

He commented that these two attacks were important in the sense that it clearly indicated that extremists "do not distinguish between us and we are truly facing a common enemy."

Both leaders reviewed the bilateral progress made during the Strategic Dialogue held on March 24 and 25. Prime Minister Gilani indicated his approval of the progress made and expressed hope that working groups established by the two governments, would address various aspects of the relationship and yield progress in advance of the next Strategic Dialogue meeting, scheduled for late 2010 in Islamabad.

Gilani also noted that his participation in the Nuclear Security Summit comes at a time when popular support for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is growing.

By way of example, he said that prior to embarking for the United States, he had met with the National Command Authority, members of both houses of parliament, the political opposition, and military leaders.

President Obama indicated his appreciation of that broad-based sentiment, and reasserted the importance of nuclear security, a priority he has reiterated for all countries. Gilani indicated that Pakistan takes nuclear security seriously and has appropriate safeguards in place.

He also expressed his appreciation for the broad U.S. assistance program to Pakistan, a multi-faceted effort to make progress on various sectors including: economy, trade, education, infrastructure, security.

He noted that energy is an existing and growing problem. The President reiterated Washington's desire and committment to help Pakistan address its real and growing energy needs.

He noted that he was pleased to hear that implementation is proceeding on the 125 million dollar energy-sector projects that Secretary Clinton had announced in October. By Smita Prakash and Ravinder Singh Robin (ANI)

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