Millennium Post

Obama warns Pak against extremism

The US and Pakistan are making 'diligent progress' on reopening the vital NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has said, while asking Pakistan to work with the world community to ensure that it is 'not consumed by extremism that is in their midst'.

Obama, who had a brief meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on the margins of the NATO summit in Chicago, also acknowledged that tension prevailed between the two nations, whose ties were hit by a series of incidents including a cross-border raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year leading to closure of supply routes to Afghanistan by Islamabad.

'We didn't anticipate that the supply line issue was going to be resolved by this summit. We knew that before we arrived in Chicago. But we are actually making diligent progress on it,' Obama told reporters in Chicago at the conclusion of the two-day NATO Summit last evening.

Obama said his discussion with Zardari was very brief as they were walking into the summit. 'I emphasised to him what we have emphasised publicly as well as privately. We think that Pakistan has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan; that it is in our national interest to see a Pakistan that is democratic, that is prosperous and that is stable; that we share a common enemy in the extremists that are found not only in Afghanistan, but also within Pakistan; and that we need to work through some of the tensions that have inevitably arisen after 10 years of our military presence in that region,' he said.

Obama said Zardari shared with him his belief that these issues can be worked through. '... ultimately, it is in our interest to see a successful, stable Pakistan, and it is in Pakistan's interests to work with us and the world community to ensure that they themselves are not consumed by extremism that is in their midst.'

US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, also said that the US and Pakistan were progressing on the ongoing negotiations on the reopening of the ground line of communication that was shut down by Islamabad, following a cross border raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last.

'We are continuing to negotiate with the Pakistanis to try to see if we can find a resolution that will allow us to open up the GLOCs [ground lines of communication],' Panetta told reporters during a news conference in Chicago. He said it was positive that Zardari did come to the NATO summit.

'We still have a ways to go, but I think the good news is that we are negotiating and that we are making some progress.

It is extremely important that ultimately we be able to open up those lines of communication and transport so that we can expedite the assistance that needs to go to our men and women in uniform who are fighting the battle,' he said.

'But at this stage, I guess I would say that I feel a lot more positive about the effort to try to see if we can find a resolution to that challenge,' Panetta said in response to a question as to when these routes would be reopened.

Panetta acknowledged that challenges remain in Afghanistan and the international forces were dealing with 'resilient' enemy that in many ways still has a 'safe haven' in Pakistan. '

'I think we understand that the biggest challenge is a Taliban that is resilient, that is going to continue to fight even though they've been weakened - and I think the levels of violence are down - that they're going to continue to conduct attacks,' he said.
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