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Emphasis on trade, not aid

September 26, 2012

NEW YORK, Sept 25: The emphasis is on moving the relationship towards the economic side as opposed to just assistance, said a senior US official while explaining recent efforts to rebuild America’s relations with Pakistan.

The two sides are also trying to “systematically identify areas of mutual interest”, said the official while briefing journalists on Monday’s meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While President Zardari urged the Americans to invest in the energy sector to help Pakistan overcome an acute energy shortage, Secretary Clinton assured him that the US government would encourage American and other international companies to invest in Pakistan.

The official US readout of the Zardari-Clinton meeting was slightly different from the Pakistani version which did not include some key points.

In a teleconference with reporters, the US official said that Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour’s bounty offer for Sam Bacile, the producer of an anti-Islam film, was also discussed in the meeting.

The official said that President Zardari raised the issue in the meeting, telling Secretary Clinton that the Pakistani government did not endorse Mr Bilour’s offer.Asfandyar Wali also spoke on the issue and explained his party’s position on the US-led fight against terrorism, a Pakistani official later told journalists.

“We found (Mr Bilour’s) statement inflammatory and unacceptable,” said the US official.

The US official said that Asfandyar Wali and Farooq Sattar also gave their assessments of the situation in Pakistan.

Later, President Zardari and Secretary Clinton had a one-to-one meeting and discussed the Haqqani network, countering IEDs and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The Zardari-Clinton meeting preceded a meeting of the core group, which includes the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The core group reviewed the Afghan reconciliation process and the US and Pakistan assured the Afghans of their support to an Afghan-led initiative.

Both countries would be doing “what the Afghans want us to do”, the official said.

The US official said in all recent interactions with the Pakistanis, the Americans have urged them to release Dr Shakil Afridi, jailed in Pakistan for helping the CIA trace Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. And it was raised in this meeting too, he added.