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US eyes closer Pakistan ties

Islamabad, Oct. 6: US officials today said their cooperation with Pakistan extended beyond the war against terrorism, adding that they wished to forge close security, economic, social and political ties.

“Our relationship is not merely confined to the war against terrorism but it is a durable and sustainable partnership,” US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage told a news conference which he jointly addressed with Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri.

Pledges of a “broad-based” relationship emerged during meetings that featured Pakistani leaders and US officials like Armitage and assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca as well as US central command chief General John B. Abizaid.

Abizaid, whose visit had not been announced earlier, arrived here to update himself on the recent developments in the region and met President Pervez Musharraf at the Army House in Rawalpindi. Armitage also met the President.

The US officials met Musharraf as well as officials from the ministries of defence and foreign affairs. The talks focused on the “long-standing and sustainable” relations between the two countries, India-Pakistan relations, developments in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terror.

Armitage and Rocca, who returned to Islamabad from Kabul this morning, also held detailed meetings with Pakistan’s defence secretary Lt General (retd) Hamid Nawaz and vice-chief of army staff General Muhammad Yousaf.

Describing his talks with Musharraf and other leaders as “very positive”, Armitage said the two countries had a special relationship, which had grown over time. He said the US had not forgotten “the issue of Kashmir”, saying it “continues to seek a negotiated solution to this problem” and that “it remains high on the US agenda”. Armitage added that the US would remain involved in efforts to promote peace and security in South Asia.

Armitage and Rocca tried to allay Pakistani concerns about India’s acquisition of sophisticated arms from the US and other countries.

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