US for long-term cooperation with Pakistan: Kerry (Night Lead)

April 14th, 2009 - 1:27 am ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, April 13 (IANS) The US considers Pakistan a key ally in the war on terror and is committed to long-term cooperation with it, visiting US Senator John Kerry said here Monday.
“Extremism and terrorism are common threats and enemies to Pakistan and international community, therefore joint efforts are needed to face these challenges,” Kerry said in a joint press conference with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi after their meeting at the Foreign Office.

Kerry, the chairman of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said that US was committed to financial help to Pakistan for fighting terrorism as well as improving the life of the people.

“The Lugar Bill will triple non-military assistance to Pakistan as it will provide $1.5 billion annually for next 10 years,” he stated.

Speaking about the reported conditions to the bill, the US senator said those were not conditions but “some measurement of effectiveness of the projects”.

Qureshi called his meeting with Kerry a constructive and positive one and said the US senator “has demonstrated his commitment to providing economic assistance to Pakistan”.

He informed that the two discussed new US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also finding a suitable mechanism for implementing the new policy in the region, the APP news agency reported.

“We are friends and allies. We need to find mechanism to bridge the gap by talking to each other and exchanging views on all subjects,” Quereshi said, referring to the differences betwen the countries over reduction of aid money and US drone attacks.

Kerry also described his meeting with Quereshi as well as his earlier meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani as constructive and focussed on a wide range of issues.

Praising the role of Pakistan in fighting against terrorism, he said Pakistan’s committment to fight extremism and terrorism was commendable.

On the strained ties between India and Pakistan, the senator said: “Both the countries have strong and vibrant political system and both are committed to have better future, therefore they can resolve their dispute through dialogue process.”

He expressed the hope, “We can find a new way forward in Pakistan-India relations with international community and even with US help.”

During his meeting with Zardari earlier in the day, the Pakistan president urged the US to expedite legislation granting Pakistan $7.5 billion in non-military aid over the next five years and work out a joint strategy against terror.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, at a separate meeting with Kerry, said the US should not make aid to Pakistan for the war against terror conditional as this would be counter productive.

Kerry and Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking member of the Senate committee, have introduced a bill to provide Pakistan $1.5 billion in non-military aid annually for the next five years to create what are termed reconstruction opportunity zones.

The aid, however, is predicated on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certifying that Pakistan is performing adequately in the war against terror.

Kerry’s visit follows that last week of Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

The duo were on a five day swing that also took them to Afghanistan and India to take forward the Af-Pak strategy.

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