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Obama calls Zardari to allay fears

WASHINGTON: Days before a historic visit to India, US President Barack Obama telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday to reassure him that America’s relations with New Delhi did not affect its partnership with Pakistan. But diplomatic observers in Washington told Dawn that the conversation focused on the third round of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue held in Washington last week.

OBama pakistan newsMr Obama reiterated the US desire to “helping Pakistan in helping us in Afghanistan”, a subject also discussed extensively during the strategic dialogue, the sources said.

President Obama told the Pakistani leader that the dialogue endorsed America’s commitment to building a strong and long-term relationship with Pakistan. He also told Mr Zardari that his visit to India, so far his longest trip abroad, should not be seen as neglecting Pakistan.

Mr Obama, who had invited President Zardari to visit Pakistan during a meeting with a Pakistani delegation in Washington last week, personally conveyed the invitation to the Pakistani leader. Mr Zardari thanked him for the invitation and said that he planned to visit Washington as soon as he could.

Mr Obama also told the Pakistani leader that he would visit Pakistan in 2011 to further strengthen bilateral ties between the two allies. The US president assured Mr Zardari that the US will continue to support Pakistan’s efforts to rebuild its economy and infrastructure devastated by the recent floods.

President Obama also encouraged Mr Zardari to implement tax reforms and withdraw energy subsidies.

The US leader “acknowledged Pakistan’s economic difficulties, and encouraged President Zardari to work to pass key economic reforms, such as tax reform and containing energy subsidies,” the White House said.

The handout added that the two presidents agreed that more needed to be done to deal with terrorist groups in Pakistan.

Earlier, Mr Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke telephoned President Zardari and discussed matters relating to the recently held Pak-US Strategic dialogue.

They also discussed the struggle against militancy and extremism, the regional security situation, reimbursements of Coalition Support Fund arrears and reconstruction. Rehabilitation efforts for the flood affected people also came under discussion, the statement said.

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