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White House rejects claim Obama refused to meet Zardari

Publication Date : 25-05-2012


The White House has rejected claims that US President Barack Obama had refused to have an exclusive meeting with Pakistan President Zardari during the Chicago summit.

“President Obama didn’t host any formal bilateral meetings except for the one with President Karzai” and that too because the summit was called to decide a future course of action for Afghanistan, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said yesterday during a briefing in Washington on efforts to reduce tensions between the United States and Pakistan.

In a bilateral meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, President Barack Obama also “reaffirmed a commitment to work to reset the US-Pakistan relationship,” he added.

Even on the margins of the summit, President Obama met only a handful of leaders and President Zardari was one of them, the White House official explained.

He said the US helped arrange a trilateral meeting of US, Pakistani and Afghan presidents on the margins a Nato summit in Chicago this weekend because “we support a political transition in Afghanistan and an Afghan-led reconciliation process, it’s very important for Pakistan to be part of that discussion.”

“And we hope to continue to talk to the Pakistanis about that going forward.”

Meantime, Commander of Nato and US forces in Afghanistan Gen John R. Allen. who also answered journalists' queies, focused on military-to-military talks between the US and Pakistan, which recently resumed after a lapse.

“Pakistan is not going anywhere. Afghanistan is not going anywhere. And the region will best be served in terms of long-term stability and security if we can build the kind of trust necessary between all the parties in that region,” said the general while underlining the need to stay engaged with Pakistan.

Gen Allen acknowledged that the issue of reopening Pakistani ground supply routes to Nato was still unresolved.

“I have recently led a team to Islamabad to renew our conversation with the Pakistani military,” Gen Allen said, noting the participants had “a very positive conversation about taking steps and measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of the events of 25 and 26 November.”

He noted that Pakistan faced many challenges along the border with Afghanistan and they had taken more casualties in the last two years than the US had in 10 years of combat in Afghanistan.

“Where we can find intersection of our interests, we should leverage those,” the general said. “And I think we’re to the point where that conversation can occur.”


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