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US and Pakistan promise to improve ties after mistrust

Mahmoud Qureshi: "Today, we have a partnership"

The US and Pakistan have promised to start a new partnership in an effort to overcome "years of misunderstandings", the US secretary of state has said.

"It's a new day," Hillary Clinton said after talks in Washington with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Mr Qureshi, meanwhile, said he expected the US to pay by the end of June nearly $2bn in military aid it owes Pakistan.

Mistrust between the two countries has reached new lows in recent months.

This has been fuelled by a surge in US drone strikes near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan says.

For its part, the US wants Pakistan to do more to combat militants.

Nuclear issue

At the end of the first of two days of high-level talks, Mrs Clinton and Mr Qureshi announced that the US-Pakistan relationship had evolved into a partnership covering a range of security and development programmes.

"Today, I am a happy man, a satisfied man," Mr Qureshi told reporters. "We have upgraded the dialogue."

We have made it very clear that this strategic dialogue is in Pakistan's interests and in the United States' interest
Hillary Clinton
US Secretary of State

He said a "substantial" amount of the outstanding military aid would be paid by the end of April, with the remainder coming by the end of June - the same time as an IMF performance review is due on its $7.6bn loan package for Pakistan.

He also said the US had agreed to put Pakistani requests for military equipment on a "fast track" as they increased security co-operation and that US officials were no longer questioning whether his country was two-faced in its fight against extremism.

"It's a 180-degree difference," he told a joint news conference with Mrs Clinton.

"There were no more question marks, there was no suspicion, there was no 'do more'," he said. "There was appreciation for what we had already done."

Mrs Clinton said the dialogue meant the expansion of the current security focus to include energy, development, education and agriculture.

She expressed hope that the new partnership "stands the test of time", but cautioned that it would not always be easy.

"Our countries have had our misunderstandings and disagreements in the past, and there are sure to be more disagreements in the future."

Mrs Clinton insisted the US was committed to helping Pakistan with its chronic power shortages.

However, when asked about a possible deal on civilian nuclear co-operation deal, like the one it signed with India, she merely said: "We will listen to and engage with our Pakistani partners."

US Army Gen David Petraeus and Pakistani Gen Ashfaq Kayani
Pakistan's military chief (left) is taking part in the talks

While some sort of understanding between the two sides is possible, any concrete nuclear accord is unlikely, our correspondent says.

Continued fears over Pakistan's proliferation record remain a major stumbling block. In particular, US officials want to question Dr AQ Khan, the disgraced former head of Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Dr Khan admitted to being involved in the transfer of nuclear technology to countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Earlier this week Pakistan's government sought court permission to question Dr Khan over what it says is new information about his role in proliferation.

The application is being heard in the high court in Lahore.

Pakistan and the US are holding a week-long "strategic dialogue".

Pakistan's army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani and the head of the ISI intelligence agency Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha are also taking part.



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