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Obama shuns Zardari company

In a rebuff to the Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, the US president Barack Obama did not meet him on the margins of the NATO Summit in Chicago, as the two countries failed to strike a deal on reopening the NATO supply lines to Afghanistan.

Zardari, who flew to Chicago with hopes of lifting his stature, was preparing to leave empty-handed as the two countries continued to feel the repercussions of a NATO air strike last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, an incident for which the US President has offered condolences but no apology.

As the two-day NATO summit opened in Chicago last evening, Obama remained at loggerheads with Zardari, refusing even to meet him without a deal on the supply routes, which officials in both sides acknowledged would not be coming soon, US media reported today.

But White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that Obama could not meet Zardari as he had a ‘full slate of summit meetings to attend’.

‘The two bilateral meetings, really, that he did, or President [Hamid] Karzai for obvious reasons given the focus on Afghanistan here, and the Secretary General of NATO given that it’s traditional for the host to make sure that we’re aligned with the Secretary General.

‘But we don’t anticipate any other bilateral meetings so we didn’t draw that linkage. We’re going to continue to work through the issue with the Pakistanis,’ he said.

However, a deal to reopen the supply lines fell apart as Obama talked on ending the NATO alliance’s combat role in Afghanistan in 2013, The New York Times said.

The failure to strike a deal injects new tension in the relationship, it said.

A state department official later said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Zardari discussed the importance of reopening NATO supply lines and of taking joint action against the terror groups, in Af-Pak region including al-Qaeda and Haqqani.
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