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Pakistan must take decisive steps to fight terror: Clinton

Clinton also said US has 'no evidence' to suggest top Pak officials knew about Osama hideout.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that relations between the United States and Pakistan had reached a turning point after the killing of Osama bin Laden and Islamabad must take “decisive steps” in the days ahead to fight terrorism.

Clinton made the remarks after meeting with Pakistani civilian and military leaders on a brief trip to Pakistan meant to repair relations that have been badly frayed by the May 2 U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader who had been hiding in a comfortable house in an Army town not far from the capital,Islamabad.

The Pakistanis were angry that they weren’t told of the raid in advance,while the location of bin Laden’s hideout raised U.S. suspicions that members of the security services must have known bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Adm. Mike Mullen,the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff who also was in Pakistan,was blunt.

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“I think we all realise the challenges under which this relationship now labours,” he told reporters. “We had very candid discussions,the kind of discussion two friends should be able to have at times like this.”

Clinton and Mullen are the highest-ranking U.S. officials to confer with Pakistani leaders since the raid,which splintered already fragile support in both countries for the agenda of cooperation that top U.S. and Pakistani officials say they want.

A portion of the meeting between Clinton and President Asif Ali Zardari briefly witnessed by reporters was stiff and awkward,with no smiles among the U.S. delegation.

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Clinton said relations “had reached a turning point,” but she thought Pakistan knew the stakes involved.

She said “it was up to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead” against militants,but did not give any details.

Clinton also pointed to the reality facing the United States as it contemplates how to deal with Pakistan,a nuclear-armed nexus for extremism and terrorism in a strategically vital region.

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The U.S. relies on Pakistan for transit and supply routes for the war in Afghanistan and will need its help if Afghanistan is to broker a peace deal with Taliban militants that can end the war. The country is believed to have influence over several Afghan insurgent commanders.

Clinton acknowledged this,saying “for reconciliation to succeed Pakistan must be part of this process”.

Clinton also gave a clean chit to Pakistan in the Osama bin Laden saga,saying that the US has “absolutely no evidence” to show that anyone at the highest levels of the Pakistan government knew about the al-Qaeda leader’s hideout before he was located and killed by US forces in a May 2 raid on his compound.

She told Pakistan,where anti-US sentiments run deep,that it must understand anti-Americanism will not make the country’s problems disappear.

Clinton,who arrived in Islamabad on Friday on an unannounced visit,cited corruption,economy,electricity and extremism among the key problems plaguing Pakistan.

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She emphasised that in recent years,the United States has tried to be a “very good friend” to Pakistan,and referred to billions of dollars provided by America to the country in aid.

She also stressed the US will stand with Pakistan and support it as it moves to take tough yet necessary decisions,but clearly stated the US cannot,and should not solve Pakistan’s problems,which should be addressed by the country’s leadership.

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The U.S. visit comes a day after a Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber detonated a pickup truck loaded with explosives near several government offices in northwest Pakistan,killing at least 32 people. Thursday’s blast was the latest in a series of attacks to hit the country since the bin Laden raid.

First published on: 27-05-2011 at 16:02 IST
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