US President George W. Bush was set to hold his first face-to-face talks with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday amid strained ties between the key allies in the “war on terror.”
The meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly will take place against the bloody backdrop of a weekend suicide bomb blast at the Marriott hotel in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad which left at least 60 people dead and more than 260 wounded.
Zardari “will apprise him of the blast as part of the discussions on joint efforts to wage the war on terror,” said Pakistani spokesman Nadeem Kiani.
As the Pakistani president arrived in New York on Monday, the UN Security Council condemned the bombing and stressed that those responsible must be brought to justice.
A non-binding statement issued after a council meeting condemned “in the strongest terms the terrorist attack” and underlined “the need to bring perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of this reprehensible act of terrorism to justice.”
Zardari said in a US television interview broadcast on Monday that Pakistan’s military was better able to track down and capture terrorists along its lawless border with Afghanistan than US forces.
“Give us the intelligence, and we will do the job,” he said in an interview with NBC recorded at the weekend. “It’s far better done by our forces than yours.”
The White House expected a “good meeting” between the two leaders.
“We will remain committed to working with Pakistan, and President Zardari has said the same, that he wants to work with us, as well. So I think we’ll have a good meeting,” said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
On tensions in the relationship, she said, “They know that they need to do more and do a better job, and that we’re going to be there to support them.
“But we also recognise their sovereignty,” Perino said.
60 militants killed in Pak
At least 60 Islamist militants and one soldier were killed in two days of clashes in northwestern Pakistan, the army said Tuesday.
“Helicopter gunships and artillery are pounding the miscreants’ hideouts. More than 60 miscreants have been killed and one soldier was also martyred,” military sources said.
Pak spies hear Qaeda celebrating hotel blast
An Islamist group that claimed responsibility for bombing the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad had not previously been heard of, but Pakistani intelligence eavesdroppers heard Al Qaeda operatives celebrating the attack.
Mosques used for jihad call
Activists of an organisation led by Lashkar-e-Tayyaba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed are using mosques to issue calls for jihad against the US in Peshawar, a media report said.
5 protestors shot dead in Swat
Pakistani police shot dead five people in Swat Valley during a protest on Tuesday against the alleged killing of children in an operation, police said.
Hundreds of people ransacked a police station in Mingora, after troops allegedly killed three children during an offensive against Taliban militants, they said.