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President Asif Ali Zardari during meeting with a US congressional delegation led by Rob Wittman, Member House Armed Services Committee at Aiwan-e-Sadr. – Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has called for overcoming difficulties which are souring Pakistan-US bilateral ties.

“It is time for the two countries to take stock of the existing situation and focus on addressing all issues which contribute towards creating misunderstandings and mistrust between the people of the two countries,” President Zardari was quoted as having told a US congressional delegation.

The delegation led by Armed Services Committee member Congressman Rob Wittman had called on him at the Presidency.

Referring to drone attacks, the president said all actions which created mistrust needed to be reviewed since they adversely affected cooperation in the war on terror.

Although there was a general acceptability of drone attacks in the country as an effective way for eliminating militants, last week’s strike in North Waziristan on a tribal jirga revived the opposition to such strikes in Fata.

The attack, which left 40 tribesmen dead, was condemned at the highest level by the civilian and military leadership and Pakistan pulled out of the March 26 trilateral ministerial meeting with the US and Afghanistan in protest.

President Zardari reminded the US delegation of sacrifices rendered by Pakistan’s people and military in the war on terror and said those needed to be respected.

“Our people have been paying the heaviest price in the war against militants both in terms of human as well as material losses.

“The only way to mitigate their sufferings and to meet challenges of the militancy is to provide them, especially the affected people of worst-hit areas, new vistas of opportunities including economic opportunities,” Mr Zardari said.

The government has been asking the West to provide preferential trade and market access for restoring the economy which has been badly hit by the war on terror and improving socio-economic conditions in conflict-ridden areas.

In this context the delegation was asked to help Pakistan get enhanced market access for its products in the US and expedite the ROZs (Reconstruction Opportunity Zones) legislation.

APP adds: President Zardari condemned the incident of deliberate desecration of the Holy Quran by a fanatic in Florida.

He stressed the need for the United Nations and civilised nations to work out special plans for promoting cultural and religious harmony.

“Extremism is being manifested in various forms including violence and intolerance,” he said, adding that disharmony was also increasing.

He said that the values of tolerance and harmony were advocated by the civilised world and now that these values were generally receding, it was important that the UN took note of it and did something with the consensus of all nations.

The president said the government and the people of Pakistan strongly condemned the incident of desecration of the Holy Quran by a fanatic in Florida.

The president termed the incident a serious setback to efforts intended to promote harmony.

The president said that no religion could permit such fanaticism which was a reflection of the sick mind.