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American Forces Press Service

U.S., Pakistan Need to Get it Right, Obama Says

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2012 – President Barack Obama today met with Pakistan’s prime minister and said he welcomes the Pakistani parliament’s review of the countries’ bilateral relationship.

Obama met with Yousuf Raza Gilani in Seoul, South Korea, where the two are participating in an international nuclear security summit.

“I want to express my appreciation to Prime Minister Gilani for the work that he’s done in trying to strengthen the relationship between our two countries,” Obama said. “There have been times -- I think we should be frank -- over the last several months where those relations have experienced strains.”

The United States has had increasingly tense relations with Pakistan over terrorist safe havens in Pakistan’s western border region with Afghanistan. The situation worsened in May when U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan, then bottomed out in November when U.S. forces killed 24 Pakistani troops along the border in what was described as a miscommunication about returning fire.

Pakistan responded by closing its overland supply route to NATO forces in Afghanistan and called for an assessment of U.S.-Pakistani relations.

“I welcome the fact that the parliament in Pakistan is reviewing, after some extensive study, the nature of this relationship,” Obama said before his meeting with Gilani. “I think that it’s important for us to get it right. I think it’s important for us to have candid dialogue to work through these issues in a constructive fashion and a transparent fashion.”

With that review and work by U.S. officials, Obama said, he expects to achieve a balanced approach that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty and U.S. national security concerns, as well as the need to battle terrorists.

Gilani said he appreciated Obama’s comments about Pakistan’s sovereignty, and that the Pakistani parliament would take up discussion of the relationship April 1.

“We are committed to fight against extremism and terrorism,” Gilani said. “It is in the interest of Pakistan for a stable, peaceful, prosperous, independent, sovereign Afghanistan. We want stability in Afghanistan. If there is a stability in Afghanistan, it's a stability in Pakistan.

“We want to work together with you to have all the peace, prosperity and progress of the whole world,” he added. “And we want to work together.”

Obama spoke of the two countries’ mutual interests of combating terrorism, creating economic development, nuclear security, and a stable and secure Afghanistan “that will benefit not only Pakistan, but also the entire world.”

“I want to express to the prime minister my appreciation for his recognition that it’s in both of our interests, and indeed in all of our interests, to see an Afghan-led reconciliation process,” the president said.

Obama also thanked Gilani for taking part in the nuclear security summit.

“I think that we all agree that given the threats that have been directed in Pakistan, the terrorism that has taken place on their own soil, and obviously our experiences with terrorism, we can’t afford to have non-state actors -- terrorists -- get their hands on nuclear weapons that could end up destroying our cities or harming our citizens,” he said.

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