Hillary woos Pakistan with aid package

US Secretary of State announces a raft of major aid projects for Pakistan.

Islamabad: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a raft of aid projects for Pakistan on Monday aimed at defusing anti-American sentiment and shoring up anti-terrorism efforts.

Hillary arrived in the capital on Sunday en route to a donor conference in Kabul, calling for "additional measures" by Pakistan to combat militant groups on its soil believed to be behind attacks on the United States and Afghanistan.

Opening talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Hillary said she hoped the aid projects, focused on water and energy needs in the country, would "lay the foundations for an enduring partnership" with Pakistan.

The projects will include two energy dams, various drinking water and irrigation projects, as well as the building of health centres and schemes to improve agriculture and private sector income.

They are part of a five-year USD 7.5-billion funding approved by the US Congress last year and a key part of the effort by the US administration to engage more fully with Pakistan, which has long seen Washington as interested only in securing its military cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

"We know that there is a perception held by too many Pakistanis that America`s commitment to them begins and ends with security," said Hillary.

"We have not done a good enough job of connecting our partnership with concrete improvements in the lives of Pakistanis. With this dialogue, we are working to change that."

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hailed the "transformational phase" in relations between the two countries during his remarks ahead of talks with Hillary.

"We`re committed to work together to build a stable, broad-based and enduring partnership.... The world has a vital stake in the success of our efforts," he said.

The United States has long voiced concern that elements of Pakistan`s powerful military and intelligence service were supporting Taliban insurgents, despite the government`s public anti-terror stance.

On Sunday, Hillary said in an interview with the BBC: "There are still additional steps that we are asking and expecting the Pakistanis to take.”

She noted that Washington and Islamabad had "increased our cooperation, deepened our relationship, when it comes to fighting terrorism”.

"But there is no doubt in anyone`s mind that should an attack against the United States be traced to be Pakistani it would have a very devastating impact on our relationship," she added.

Pakistan and the United States had been allies throughout the Cold War years as both played a key role in arming Islamist insurgents who ousted Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989.

Ties then cooled until the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Bureau Report

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