Obama to visit Pakistan only in 2011

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Thursday, October 21, 2010

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has told Pakistan that he would visit their country next year and wouldn’t be stopping there on a trip next month to Asia including a visit to India.

A White House statement said Obama conveyed this during a meeting with the Pakistani delegation attending this week’s US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue to discuss how to further strengthen relations between the countries.

“The President explained that he would not be stopping in Pakistan during his trip to Asia next month, and committed to visiting Pakistan in 2011, as well as welcoming (Pakistani) President (Asif Ali) Zardari to Washington,” the statement said.

“The President underlined the importance of the Dialogue in moving our relationship toward a true partnership based on mutual respect and common interests,” it said.

“The President and the Pakistani delegation agreed on the need for regional stability, and specifically on the importance of cooperating toward a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan,” the statement added.

The meeting with Pakistani officials followed Obama’s monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan with his national security team for nearly ninety minutes.

“The meeting began with a discussion of our ongoing efforts to work with our Pakistani and Afghan partners to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda and its affiliates, including counter-terrorism operations that have killed or captured several Al Qaeda leaders in recent months,” the White House said.

The President and his team then discussed “our relationship with Pakistan in the context of this week’s Strategic Dialogue in Washington, including our security cooperation, the need to increase pressure on extremist safe-havens, our support for the Pakistani people and their democratic institutions, and our efforts to help Pakistan recover from the devastating floods.”

Earlier as the dialogue got underway, Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy met with Pakistan’s army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the Pentagon.

As they discussed military-to-military partnership and security Gates expressed the department’s appreciation and recognition of the Pakistani military’s contributions and sacrifices in combating terror in Pakistan and conducting counterinsurgency operations there, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said

“(Gates) said that we are, of course, committed to the security and development of Afghanistan over the long term, but beyond Afghanistan and the important role Pakistan plays in the ultimate successful outcome in that country, we wish to build a long-term, wide-ranging (relationship) with Pakistan on its own merits,” he said.

The discussion also featured security assistance topics including coalition support funds, the Pakistani counterinsurgency capabilities fund and foreign military sales, Morrell said.

The third meeting this year of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue concludes on Friday.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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