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Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:21 UK

Key US aide hails Pakistan's war

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (R) shakes hand with President Barack Obama"s top security adviser James Jones
US officials have expressed support for Pakistan's military offensive

President Obama's national security adviser has concluded talks in Pakistan by reiterating US support for Islamabad's battle with the Taliban.

Gen James Jones met senior leaders including the president, prime minister and army chief.

Pakistan responded by calling for an end to US drone attacks in its territory launched from Afghanistan.

It also expressed concerns that the continuing US presence in Afghanistan could trigger a new refugee crisis.

'Confidence-builder'

Gen Jones - who is on a tour of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India - said that Washington and Islamabad face a common battle against extremists.

Scene of alleged US drone strike in Pakistan in February 2009
Drone strikes have been strongly criticised by the Pakistani government

"Terrorism is not simply the enemy of America," he said. "It is a direct and urgent threat to the Pakistani people," he said in a statement after meetings.

He described the Pakistani government's push against militants a "tremendous confidence-builder for the future".

"That translates into popular support in the United States for what the government is trying to do, what the army is trying to do, and it obviously helps us in our overall fight," he said in a TV interview.

"It's a very, very important moment right now, it's a strategic moment, and the relationship is definitely (moving) in the right direction."

His visit comes after dozens of people were killed in a strike by a US drone aircraft on Wednesday in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan.

In a statement Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani called for an end to such strikes "in order to ensure (the) success of Pakistan's strategy for isolating the militants from the tribes". The government is also aware that such attacks are deeply unpopular with the Pakistani public.

The US military does not routinely confirm drone attacks but the armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operating in Afghanistan are believed to be the only forces capable of deploying drones in the region.

The national security adviser said that attacks such as November's year's deadly siege in Mumbai must be prevented and vowed to help Pakistan and India improve their relations to combat the militant threat.

A statement from the White House after his Afghan trip said that he completed two days of meetings with Afghanistan's top civilian and military leadership, as well as international community representatives.



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