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Spokesperson to the President, Farhatullah Babar. - File Photo by APP

WASHINGTON: Both Pakistan and the United States are making a sustained effort to overcome difficulties in the bilateral relationship and President Asif Ali Zardari believes that bridging trust deficit is key to making the partnership meaningful, top Pakistani officials said.

Presidential spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar and ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman said at a briefing that Pakistan wants a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the United States. They spoke after the Pakistani president's meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“We are trying; they are also trying, to bridge the trust deficit. I hope we will be able to resolve,” Babar said in response to a series of questions about stalemate in relations between the two countries.

The two countries have kept open the political and military channels and are trying to narrow down differences, Ambassador Sherry Rehman said.

She also said that Islamabad wants to be part of the solution.

“We are trying to move forward but we are not compromising on our national interest,” Rehman said.

“President Asif Ali Zardari dispelled the misperceptions about the alleged links of Pakistan with groups of militants,” Presidential spokesman Babar said.

In this respect, President Zardari referred to the immense sacrifices Pakistan has made in fighting militants with 37000 of its civilians dead and 6000 of its soldiers killed.

“Our sacrifices are second to none,” President Zardari said, according to the spokesman. Economically too, Islamabad has incurred a huge loss of $ 70 billion due to prolonged war on terror.

“We do not lack the will” but we don't have the resources (to prosecute the fight against terror more effectively --- We call upon the international community to help us in capacity building.” Babar said, quoting the president.

On the unresolved issue of ground lines of communication for Nato supplies into landlocked Afghanistan, the spokesman, echoing the president, said Pakistan is committed to helping the international presence in Afghanistan.

“However, the international community should also share the financial cost of services and goods involved in ensuring the international presence in Afghanistan.”

The Pakistani officials said President Zardari also raised the issues of non-payment of coalition support fund, drone attacks and apology over Salala tragedy when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack on border posts on November 26, 2011.

Islamabad has not received any CSF disbursement since July 2010.

President Zardari also made the argument in favor of trade expansion, instead of dependence on aid, as the preferred way to economic development.

On the issue of drone attacks, the president said, they are counterproductive, his spokesman said.

He also called for sharing counterterrorism intelligence to prosecute an effective war against terrorism.

In his meetings, President Asif Ali Zardari said Pakistan stands for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The president said Pakistan supports peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan including the Qatar process and any effort, which is backed by Kabul, the presidential spokesman said.

President Asif Zardari stressed the importance of long-term engagement in the region. Ambassador Rehman said President Zardari's meetings with the Afghan and Australian leaders and US Secretary of State took place in a constructive and positive atmosphere.

The envoy said a meeting between President Zardari and Nato Secretary General is being rescheduled, after it could not take place as planned earlier due to delayed arrival of the plane the Pakistani leader was flying in.

Ambassador Rehman told journalists that US Secretary of State Clinton expressed Washington's desire to have a long-term partnership with Pakistan. Secretary Clinton noted that Washington acknowledges the country's sacrifices in the war on terror.

The top American diplomat also reaffirmed support for democratic development in Pakistan.

Secretary Clinton acknowledged the two countries should create “political space” for relations between the two country to move forward and in the context of Parliamentary review,    welcomed the fact that democracy in Pakistan has come this far,” both have issues and should work on convergences, she noted.

Ambassador Sherry said Pakistani and American sides discussed the framework of cooperation in the light of parliamentary review and guidelines.

Farhatullah Babar also briefed media persons about President Zardari's meetings with Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Australian prime minister Julia Gillards.

The Australian prime minister pledged to provide $ 200 million to Pakistan in assistance in various fields in the next few years.

With Afghan president Karzai, the Pakistani leader said the transit trade agreement should be extended to Central Asian states to strengthen regional cooperation as a bulwark against extremism.

Updated May 21, 2012 10:16am

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