Obama, Zardari discuss Afghanistan, terrorism, blasphemy law

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jan 15 (PTI) Efforts to fight terrorism,situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan''s controversialblasphemy law figured prominently in a meeting between USPresident Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart Asif AliZardari at the White House.

Zardari, who was here on a two-day visit to attend thememorial service for late US special envoy for Af-Pak regionRichard Holbrooke, held talks with Obama last evening.

"The discussion focussed on our shared efforts to fightterrorism and promote regional stability, specifically on theimportance of cooperating toward a peaceful and stable outcomein Afghanistan," the White House said.

During the 30-minute meeting, Obama told Zardari he islooking forward to visiting Pakistan later this year, it said.

"The President underscored the importance of the US-Pakistanrelationship and our continued support for Pakistan."

Pakistan''s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani told abriefing after the meeting that both leaders agreed to furtherstrengthen bilateral relations. "No body said Pakistan was notdoing enough (against terrorism). Nothing negative was saidabout either country," he said.

Haqqani was the only Pakistani official to haveaccompanied Zardari for the Obama meeting at the Oval office.

Obama was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and his othercounter-terrorism advisers.

The Obama-Zardari meeting comes within days of theIslamabad visit of US Vice President Joe Biden, where he mettop Pakistani leadership, including Zardari.

White House officials said Zardari would be coming backto the US later this year on an official visit. Obama too hasannounced that he would be travelling to Pakistan later thisyear. Dates of both the visits have not been announced so far.

Farhatullah Babar, spokesperson for Zardari, said thetalks between the two leaders focused on terrorism, democracy,economic reforms and aid to Pakistan in fight against terror.

During the meeting, Zardari said it was imperativePakistan was assisted by the international community,especially the US, in the fight against militancy byaddressing the economic problems of the country.

Pakistan''s controversial blasphemy law also came upduring the talks between Zardari and Obama.

National Security Adviser Donilon said the two leaderstalked about the overall relationship of their countries, aswell as the economic situation in Pakistan.

"They talked about the blasphemy law," he said.

The blasphemy law is at the centre of a debate inPakistan ever since a Christian woman was sentenced to deathunder it. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned downrecently by his security guard who was angered by hisopposition to the law.

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