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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Obama Calls for 'Balanced' Pakistani Review of Ties With US

VOA News March 27, 2012

U.S. President Barack Obama says Pakistan's review of its ties with the United States should not only respect Pakistan's sovereignty but also U.S. security needs.

Mr. Obama spoke to reporters Tuesday moments before holding private talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The two leaders met on the sidelines of an international nuclear summit in Seoul.

The meeting came amid a breakdown in relations between Pakistan and the United States following the U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil last May and the mistaken killing of 24 Pakistani troops during a cross-border NATO strike last November.

The deadly strike prompted Pakistan to shut its ground supply lines to NATO forces in Afghanistan and re-evaluate its ties with the United States. On Tuesday, thousands of Islamist party members took to the streets of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, demanding Pakistan not reopen its Afghan border to U.S. and NATO supplies.

President Obama said Tuesday "there have been times, I think we should be frank, in the last several months where those relations have experienced strains." He welcomed Pakistan's parliamentary review of ties with the U.S., saying "I think it's important for us to get it right."

Mr. Obama said he would like the see Pakistani lawmakers respect U.S. national security interests in their review of relations, including its need to battle terrorists who have targeted Americans.

Prime Minister Gilani says both he and President Obama want a stable and secure Afghanistan.

A White House deputy national security advisor ((Ben Rhodes)) said Tuesday's meeting "made important progress in both sides being able to hear directly from one another about what their views are."

The Pakistani parliamentary committee tasked with laying out new terms of engagement with the United States and NATO last week demanded an end to U.S. drone strikes and an apology from Washington for the NATO strike that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops.

The U.S. has expressed regret for the loss of life and accepted partial responsibility for the airstrike, but has so far refused to apologize, saying NATO forces acted in self-defense.

Pakistan's parliament adjourned Tuesday for a second consecutive day without debating the proposed terms of engagement with the U.S. Opposition parties are unhappy with some of the review's recommendations.

Meanwhile, some of the parties allied with the ruling coalition say the government should instead focus on domestic issues, such as the ongoing violence in the city of Karachi, before debating foreign policy.

Local officials say at least eight people were killed in Karachi on Tuesday when violence erupted following the killing of a political activist and his brother. Protesters also set fire to more than 35 vehicles in Pakistan's economic hub. The victims were members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Karachi has a long history of political, ethnic and sectarian violence.

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