Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Pakistan calls for 'new' US ties

Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani (r) shakes hands with US Envoy Richard Holbrooke
Mr Gilani warned that US incursions were counter-productive

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that his country and the US must base their relationship on "trust, cohesion and understanding".

He said that Pakistan and the new US administration must realise each other's "strengths and constraints in their struggle against extremism".

He was speaking after US envoy Richard Holbrooke began talks in Pakistan with senior members of the government.

Earlier President Obama vowed the US would not allow militant "safe havens".

Relations between Pakistan and the US have been strained in recent months after dozens of US missile strikes against suspected militants in north-west Pakistan.

The militants are accused of launching raids over the border in Afghanistan, as well as a spate of attacks inside Pakistan itself.

Correspondents say that the new US administration has made it clear that Afghanistan is one of its top foreign policy objectives, and removing Taleban sanctuaries in nuclear-armed Pakistan is seen as a key part of reducing militancy in both countries.

'Anti-American feeling'

Mr Holbrooke met President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as well as Prime Minister Gilani on Tuesday. He is also due to hold talks with army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani during a visit that will last until Thursday.

After the meeting, Mr Gilani said that Pakistan would like to engage with the US to build "a new global strategic consensus for peace, security and stability in the region".

Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Richard Holbrooke
Security tops the agenda for Mr Holbrooke (right) in Pakistan

He stressed the importance of enhanced co-operation and dialogue in defence and intelligence sharing to deal with the issues of "terrorism, militancy and extremism".

But he warned President Obama's administration that the "policy of the US incursions" had proved counter-productive.

The prime minister said that they had promoted anti-American feeling in the area while severely undermining public support for counter-terrorism measures.

He also emphasised the need to eliminate drug money, which he said was "the main source of funding to the terrorists".

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says the main Pakistani focus will be trying to squeeze more money out of the US, particularly for reconstruction in the tribal areas and the revival of a US bill pledging long-term assistance that has been gathering dust in Washington.

Mr Holbrooke will be well aware of his financial leverage, our correspondent says, and will be pushing to devise mechanisms that will minimise the role of the Pakistani security establishment in charting the country's geo-political strategies.

'New focus'

Mr Holbrook, who will also visit Afghanistan and India, has previously called the situation in Pakistan "dire".

I'm not going to allow al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks on the US homeland.
Barack Obama

Our correspondent says he is likely to restate the need for Pakistan to do more to tackle militants and express concern over the recent release of disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan from house arrest.

Tensions between India and Pakistan are also on the agenda.

On arrival in Islamabad, Mr Holbrooke said he had come to listen to the Pakistani leadership and to understand the ground situation.

Speaking in Washington on Monday, Mr Obama said he had appointed Mr Holbrooke as a special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan to give a new focus to dealing with terrorism.

"I do not have yet a timetable for how long that's going to take. What I know is... I'm not going to allow al-Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks on the US homeland."

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