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Obama, Zardari agree on active engagement

world Updated: Feb 11, 2009 21:50 IST

US President Barack Obama telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday, with the two leaders agreeing to an "active engagement" to resolve regional problems, Islamabad said.

The telephone conversation was Obama's "first direct interaction" with Zardari since he took office last month, Pakistan's foreign ministry said.

"The two leaders exchanged views on bilateral relations, (the) situation in the region and other issues of mutual interest," it added.

"Both also agreed to start an active engagement for the resolution of problems facing our region through a holistic strategy.

"Both leaders underscored a need for a joint strategy to bring peace and security to the region," said the statement from the ministry's spokesman.

Zardari took over as Pakistan president after eight years of military rule by Pervez Musharraf, who resigned in August 2008 amid threats of impeachment.

Pakistan became a key ally in the US-led "war on terror" after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The telephone call came with Obama's emissary for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, in Pakistan as he looks to conduct a major review of US policy hoping to turn around the war against Islamist extremism in the region.

Obama and Zardari also discussed Holbrooke's visit, the statement said.

Holbrooke met Pakistan's civilian and military leadership on Tuesday, and on Wednesday met with military commanders in the northwest, who briefed him on the fight against Islamists in the flashpoint border areas with Afghanistan.

Pakistan's rugged tribal regions have been wracked by violence since becoming a stronghold for hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels who fled across the border to escape the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.