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Pak, NATO optimistic on supply route deal

Zardari said his government has directed officials to conclude negotiations with the US for reopening key supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan.



Washington: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said his government has directed officials to conclude negotiations with the US for reopening key supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan, as alliance chief expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached soon.

In a speech to leaders from countries in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, Zardari said that the November 26 incident in which 24 of his soldiers were killed in a cross border firing was a "set back" that forced his government to review its engagement and cooperation with them.

Addressing the meeting in Chicago, which among others was attended by US President Barack Obama, Zardari said the Defence Committee of the Cabinet has considered the issue and decided to direct the relevant officials to conclude negotiations for resumption of the Ground Lines of Communication.
However, he did not give any timeline as to when these routes would be opened.

Counting on Pakistan`s commitment to support the efforts of the international community to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Islamabad would reopens key routes in the near future.

Rasmussen said he did not expect an agreement on Pakistan transit route to be reached at this summit.
"That was not planned. We invited President Zardari because we want to engage Pakistan in a constructive dialogue. We need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to ensure long term peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region. That is why we invited him," he said.

"I was encouraged by his statements also in the (NATO-led ISAF) meeting that Pakistan stays committed to finding a long term sustainable solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Obviously it is in the interest of Pakistan to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the President confirmed today that this is the position of Pakistan," he said.

"So on that basis, I express some optimism as regards to the possibility to see a reopening of the transit routes in the very near future."

These crucial supply lines which were once considered as the lifeline of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan were closed by Pakistan in November after the incident in which 24 Pak soldiers were killed in a NATO cross border fire.

Since then NATO and US forces are using the highly expensive northern distribution network to send supplies to Afghanistan.
"We would like to see the reopening of the transit routes as soon as possible," Rasmussen told reporters.
PTI

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