ISLAMABAD, Dec 20: US Vice-President Dick Cheney said on Tuesday Pakistan was an important ally of the United States. “The United States wants to boost its multi-faceted ties with Pakistan on long-term basis,” he said during a meeting with President Gen Pervez Musharraf here at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.

During the meeting, the two leaders expressed their satisfaction over the existing bilateral political and economic relations.

They also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concern.

Mr Cheney expressed his country’s solidarity and support for efforts to overcome the effects of the Oct 8 earthquake and said Washington would continue to assist Pakistan in its rebuilding efforts.

He conveyed sorrow and grief over colossal losses on behalf of President George Bush and the American nation.

President Musharraf expressed Pakistan’s gratitude to the US for extending timely help in the aftermath of the natural disaster. He said the US helicopters had been critical in expediting rescue and relief operations.

President Musharraf also hosted a luncheon for Mr Cheney, which was also attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Later, Mr Cheney, who reviewed the progress of the relief operations being carried out by the US Disaster Response Assistance Team in the Azad Kashmir and the NWFP, also visited the earthquake-hit areas.

Earlier, Mr Cheney was received by Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, US Ambassador in Pakistan Mr Ryan C. Crocker and senior officials.

Mr Cheney, who had witnessed the swearing-in of the first Afghan parliament in more than 30 years in Kabul on Monday, came to Pakistan from Oman where he had an over-night stay. Tight security measures had been taken on the occasion of his arrival at the Chaklala Air Base.

After alighting from the palne, Mr Cheney went straight to a Black Hawk helicopter, accompanied by Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri. Another Black Hawk and two Chinook helicopters escorted him.

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