Sherry Rehman. — AP Photo

WASHINGTON: In a rare goodwill gesture, US President Barack Obama has agreed to receive Pakistan's ambassador-designate Sherry Rehman at the White House on Jan 17, days after her arrival, and the State Department has said the United States wants to restore a 'full counter-terrorism relationship' with Pakistan.

In a related development, the US Department of Defence described its ties with Pakistan as 'an essential relationship' with an 'important partner' and expressed the hope that Islamabad would soon reopen the ground supply routes for Nato troops in Afghanistan.

According to diplomatic sources, Ms Rehman is expected to arrive in Washington on Jan 9 and hopes to present her credential to President Obama on Jan 17.

Until a head of state or his or her delegate accepts a letter of credence, an ambassador-designate does not formally assume diplomatic status. Washington's diplomatic circles are interpreting this as a rare goodwill gesture as sometimes an envoy has to wait for weeks to present credentials. The State Department also expedited other formalities and sent its endorsement of her appointment in two weeks.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told a briefing in Washington that the United States was still talking to the government of Pakistanat 'all levels' 'We want to get back to normal and get into a full counter-terrorism relationship again. We think that's important not only for US security but for Pakistani security and for the security of the entire region,' she said, adding that the US ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, had resumed his contacts with Pakistani officials following the New Year holidays.

By expediting formalities relating to Ambassador Rehman's appointment, the Obama administration has indicated that it wants a Pakistani envoy in Washington as soon as possible to 'continue this two-way traffic,' a senior diplomatic source said.

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