Gilani asks Karzai to dump US and ally with China: WSJ

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Yousuf Raza Gilani
Washington, April 27: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai to dump United States and instead align with China for help in striking a peace deal with Taliban and rebuilding the economy, a media report has claimed.

"The pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both," the Wall Street Journal reported quoting senior Afghan officials familiar with the meeting.

"Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term US military presence in his country," Gilani said, according to the Afghan officials.

The Journal reported that Pakistan's bid to cut the US out of Afghanistan's future is the clearest sign to date that, as the nearly 10-year war's endgame begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America's prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms.

The report was immediately denied by Pakistani Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani.

"Reports claiming Gilani-Karzai discussion about Pakistan advising alignment away from US are inaccurate," Haqqani said in his tweet message.

The news report comes within days of publication of secret US cable, released by WikiLeaks, in which top US officials have been quoted as saying that Pakistan's spy agency ISI is a terrorist organization.

"Afghans in the pro-US camp who shared details of the meeting with The Wall Street Journal said they did so to prompt the US to move faster toward securing the strategic partnership agreement, which is intended to spell out the relationship between the two countries after 2014," the daily said.

"The longer they wait the more time Pakistan has to secure its interests," one of the Afghan officials was quoted as saying.

"Pakistan would not make such demands. But even if they did, the Afghan government would never accept it," Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar told WSJ.

However, US officials are not taking such development very seriously, the daily reported.

"The US officials sought to play down the significance of the Pakistani proposal. Such overtures were to be expected at the start of any negotiations, they said; the idea of China taking a leading role in Afghanistan was fanciful at best, they noted," it said.

"Yet in a reflection of US concerns about Pakistan's overtures, Commander of the US-led coalition Gen. David Petraeus has met Karzai three times since April 16, in part to reassure the Afghan leader that he has America's support, and to nudge forward progress on the partnership deal," the Journal quoted Afghan and US officials as saying.

Gilani led a delegation of Generals and intelligence chief to Kabul in mid April.

PTI

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