Obama meets Gilani,admits bilateral relations strained

Welcomes Pak review of ties,wants US security concerns addressed

Written by Associated Press | Seoul | Published: March 28, 2012 12:28:30 am

Conceding strained ties,President Barack Obama on Tuesday welcomed Pakistan’s review of its relationship with the US,saying it was important for the two countries to get their partnership right.

Obama spoke alongside Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani before the two men held private talks. The meeting came amid heightened tensions between their countries following a series of incidents that have marred trust. “There have been times,I think we should be frank,in the last several months where those relations have experienced strains,’’ Obama said of the dynamic between US and Pakistan.

The tipping point in relations came in November,when US forces returned fire they believed came from a Pakistani border post,killing 24 Pakistani troops. Pakistan broke off ties with the US following that incident and launched a debate about new terms of engagement with Washington,including on the sensitive issue of CIA drone strikes on targets inside Pakistani borders.

Pakistan has since rejected offers by US officials to give its spy chief advanced notice of the CIA’s drone campaign against al-Qaeda in Pakistan and to apply new limits on the types of targets hit.

Obama said it was important for the US and Pakistan to have candid and open talks. He said he expects Pakistan’s review will result in a “balanced approach that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty but also respects our concerns with respect to our national security and our needs to battle terrorists who have targeted us in the past.’’

Obama also voiced concern over safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. “We can’t afford to have non-state actors and terrorists to get their hands on nuclear weapons that would end up destroying our cities or harming our citizens,” Obama said alongside Gilani.

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