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Obama pledges commitment to Pakistan

US President Barack Obama pledged a long-term commitment to Pakistan, a frontline US partner, in what he described as their common battle against extremists.

world Updated: Apr 12, 2010 15:49 IST

US President Barack Obama pledged a long-term commitment to Pakistan, a frontline US partner, in what he described as their common battle against extremists.

Obama met Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and a handful of other leaders on Sunday, on the eve of a major nuclear summit in Washington, as his administration works to reduce anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

He opened the meeting "by noting that he is very fond of Pakistan, having visited the country during college," the White House said in a statement.

Obama "also noted that our multi-faceted and long-term strategic relationship goes far beyond security issues," the statement said.

He voiced appreciation for Pakistan's response to an attack last week on the US consulate in Peshawar, offering condolences over the assault and a separate bombing against a rally that together left 46 people dead.

"These two attacks on the same day are important to note because the extremists do not distinguish between us and we are truly facing a common enemy," Obama was quoted as saying by the White House.

The White House said the relationship between Pakistan and the United States was "of significant importance because of the shared values of our countries and the fight we are both engaged in against extremists operating in South Asia."

The United States last year approved a 7.5-billion-dollar aid package to Pakistan in hopes of developing the economy and democratic institutions of the Islamic world's only declared nuclear power.

But Obama has had to strike a careful balance as he also seeks to develop warmer relations with Pakistan's historic rival India.

Obama met earlier Sunday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who urged the US leader to put pressure on Pakistan to rein in extremists responsible for the deadly 2008 assault on Mumbai.

The White House made no explicit mention of the Indian concerns in its account of the meeting with Gilani.

The United States also has longstanding concerns about nuclear proliferation from Pakistan.

Policymakers are said to have quietly drafted a crisis plan in case the nuclear arsenal risk falling out of the control of the government, which is fighting an insurgency by Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.

Before leaving for the United States, Gilani assured the international community that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe.

In an interview with The New York Times last Monday, Obama also said he felt "confident that Pakistan has secured its nuclear weapons."

But the newspaper reported this Monday that three months ago, US intelligence officials examining satellite photographs of Pakistani nuclear facilities saw wisps of steam coming from the cooling towers of a new nuclear reactor built to make fuel for a second generation of nuclear arms.

These images, the report said, made it clear that Pakistan was getting ready to greatly expand its production of weapons-grade fuel.

First Published: Apr 12, 2010 15:48 IST