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Page last updated at 21:23 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 22:23 UK

Pakistan welcomes US 'blessing'

Asif Ali Zardari and Condoleezza Rice
Mr Zardari welcomed US and world support for Pakistan

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has said he considers US support a "blessing", a day after an exchange of gunfire on the border with Afghanistan.

Asif Ali Zardari made the remarks after a private meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the UN.

Ms Rice said the US government was aware of the economic and security challenges that Pakistan faced.

No-one was hurt when Pakistani troops fired warning shots near two US helicopters in Thursday's incident.

The US military has maintained that its forces did not cross the border, but Mr Zardari told the UN General Assembly hours later that Pakistan could not allow its territory to be "violated by our friends".

'No intent'

Asked on Friday about the clash, the Pakistani leader said: "We've always, whenever we meet with our friends, we discuss all the weaknesses and definitely try to make them into our strengths.

"All weaknesses have to be looked at. And if there have been any weaknesses or any foresight, definitely we talk about it," he added.

BORDER TENSIONS
3 Sept: First reported ground assault by US troops in Pakistan - Islamabad responds furiously
15 Sept: Pakistani troops reportedly fire in air to stop US troops crossing in S Waziristan
17 Sept: Top US military chief Adm Mike Mullen visits Pakistan to calm tensions
16 Sept: Pakistan says it was not told of fresh US missile strike
22 Sept: Pakistani troops in fresh firing to deter US incursion into N Waziristan, officials say
25 Sept: Pakistani troops fire warning shots at Nato helicopters on border with Khost

Ms Rice did not respond to questions about Thursday's incident, but emphasised Washington's support for Pakistan.

"We know that Pakistan has many challenges in security, in the economy, and in bringing stability to this young democracy," she said.

"But we hope that the president and Pakistani people were assured today that the international community will be by their side as they take difficult decisions and move toward a more stable and prosperous Pakistan."

Meanwhile in Washington, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, said he had been assured by his Pakistani counterparts last week that "there is certainly no intent or plan to fire on our forces".

"Because of the proximity and the difficulty of the terrain, it can be tough and there can be misunderstandings," he told reporters.

"It doesn't mean we should ever overreact to the hair-trigger tension we are all feeling. Now more than ever is a time for teamwork, for calm."

Forces from the US-led coalition and the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) patrol Afghanistan's border, but Pakistan has been angered by recent reported US operations across the border in pursuit of insurgents.

Nato said the US helicopters, which belong to its Isaf mission, had come under fire from a Pakistani checkpoint near Khost.



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