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US to keep building strategic ties with India: Rice

Condoleezza Rice says the US will continue building a new strategic relationship with India while seeking a moderate, democratic Pak that is a partner in the war on terrorism.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2007 11:35 IST
Arun Kumar

The US says it "will continue building a new and very important strategic relationship with India" while seeking "a moderate, democratic Pakistan that is a partner in the war on terrorism."

Setting this out as Washington's goal in South Asia, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday. "In Pakistan, President Musharraf has taken off his uniform and stepped down as chief of the army and all major civilian leaders have now returned to that country.

"Free and fair elections in January will advance the goal of a moderate, democratic Pakistan that is a partner in the war on terrorism," she said at a yearend news conference giving an overview of US foreign policy.

"At the same time, we will continue building a new and very important strategic relationship with India," added the top US diplomat who is credited with what she calls 'de-hyphenation' of the two South Asian neighbours in Washington's world view.

In other remarks, Rice said, "In Central Asia, Central and South Asia, we and our NATO and Afghan allies are fighting together in Afghanistan and it is a fight that we will win. We will support the Afghan Government."

On Iran, she expressed a readiness to meet her counterpart "anyplace and anytime and anywhere and we can talk about anything" provided it does just one thing - "suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities".

"Let's see if countries are prepared to take that path. But the United States doesn't have permanent enemies," Rice added. "We're too great a country for that."

Asked to comment on a former State Department official's suggestion that US just drop that condition in the light of a new US intelligence report that Iran halted its weapons programme in 2003, she suggested that Tehran was using the talks as a cover.

"...as long as the Iranians are talking and practicing enrichment, you're not getting anywhere. In fact, they're using the cover of negotiations to perfect this technology. That's why the suspension is important, " Rice said.

On Myanmar she promised renewed efforts at the United Nations to press the military regime to negotiate with its democratic opposition and asked China and other states with influence to help move the process forward.

"It's our responsibility, along with others, to try to keep a focus on that effort," Rice said. "We will return again and again to the Security Council to discuss this issue. We will return again and again to those states that have influence, like China, to move this forward."

Rice said she was concerned that world attention to Myanmar had dissipated since September's crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks.

Washington, she said, wanted the military regime to listen to detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to end what she called "unacceptable" treatment of the special UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari.

Gambri has visited Myanmar twice since the crackdown and has held meetings with Suu Kyi and junta leader Than Shwe. But the regime has since appointed another general to act as go-between the two.