ISLAMABAD, March 28: US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher has said that Washington is looking for long-term relations with the new democratic government in Pakistan.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari after a meeting at the Zardari House on Friday, the US official said he was happy to have met the coalition and opposition leaders and discussed relations with the new government.

Responding to a question about US strikes in the tribal areas, he said: “They were very dangerous people who were carrying out attacks in Pakistan, Europe and the US and we are working on subduing their activities.”

Mr Zardari said terrorism had hit Pakistan very hard and it had spread to all major cities, including Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. He said the government would take steps with determination to protect the country’s sovereignty.

Earlier, Mr Boucher held talks with Asfandyar Wali Khan of the Awami National Party and Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and Pakistan Muslim League-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain.

“I have discussed with Mr Zardari as to how and in which areas the US government can offer its support as the people are looking forward to the new coalition government,” he said. “Our support to Pakistan will be consistent.” The PPP leader said: “The people of Pakistan have clearly spoken in the February polls and parliament has been formed to take future decisions.”

He said the people of Pakistan were hospitable and aware of the relationship with the US and they would be looking forward to long-term relations.

Mr Boucher said: “We all want to move together to help make Pakistan a safe and secure democratic society.” He said: “We all understand various aspects of the problem and that after that new parliament has come into being, it will discuss and decide on all issues, including the issues of terrorism and extremism that are affecting Pakistan itself.”

Maulana Fazl told Mr Boucher that Pakistan was suffering from terrorism because of the war being waged in Afghanistan.

Talking to newsmen, he said he had made it clear that the use of force was no answer to the problem of violence.

The new government would not be able to continue the policy pursued by a dictator without consulting parliament or the people of the country, he said.

The ANP chief stressed the need for implementing the proposed development package for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and said peace could not be restored without the help of tribesmen.

PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat told reporters he had assured the US official that the opposition would play its role in parliament in formulating the policy regarding the war on terror.

He alleged that some leaders who had met the US officials over the past two days were making statements in public which were completely different from what they had actually told the Americans in private.

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