Obama will `see` Zardari, not meet him

Barack Obama`s first bilateral meeting with any heads of the state on sidelines of the Chicago Summit would be with Hamid Karzai.

Washington: No bilateral meeting has been planned between US President Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari during the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago beginning on Saturday, a top presidential aide has said.

"At this point there are 61 countries going to be present there, and the (US) President is not going to have bilaterals with all of them. There`s not a plan at this point to have a separate bilateral meeting with President Zardari, but the President will see him during the course of the sessions that we have in Chicago," US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told reporters at a crowded White House news conference yesterday.

However, Obama`s first bilateral meeting with any heads of the state on sidelines of the Chicago Summit would be with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Donilon said noting that this is obvious as the main focus of this major international meeting is on Afghanistan.

Donilon said Zardari was invited by NATO to attend the summit, which the Pakistan President has accepted. Coming to Chicago with his Foreign Minister and his Foreign Secretary, Zardari will participate in the meetings on Sunday.

Responding to the ongoing talks with Pakistan on reopening of the closed routes, Donilon said that the two countries have made real progress, but haven`t reached a point to make an announcement in that regard.

"We have made real progress, I think, towards resolving the issue around opening up the ground supply lines, which have been closed since the November cross-border incident where 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed," he said.

"The key government groups in Islamabad have instructed their negotiators to move to conclude these negotiations. We have our negotiators out there as well, and we`re making progress towards that. Whether that will be done in the next few days or not I can`t judge at this point, but it`s been a decision on both sides to reach a conclusion of this going forward. And that`s important, obviously, for us," Donilon said.

At a separate news conference, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that no deal has been reached yet on the reopening of the ground lines of communications.

"I am going to make a prediction. These negotiations are ongoing. It`s most important that we get it right and that we do it completely," Nuland said in response to a question.

"There are all kinds of crazy stuff in the press one way or the other. We don`t consider it productive to be conducting this negotiation from this podium, so I`m not going to comment on every stray comment about what`s going on, but we are working through all of these various issues with the Pakistani side and will continue to do so," Nuland said when asked about some media reports in this regard that Pakistan is asking for USD 2,500 for passage of each truck through its territory.