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Zardari raises concerns over drone attacks with US delegation

President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday described US drone attacks in Pakistan`s tribal areas as "counterproductive", saying the two countries need to "find a way out" in the campaign against militants operating in the region.

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday described US drone attacks in Pakistan`s tribal areas as "counterproductive", saying the two countries need to "find a way out" in the campaign against militants operating in the region.

The drone attacks are causing "great damage" among the people, Zardari told a visiting delegation of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee headed by its chairman Robert Menendez during a meeting at the presidency.

Zardari also voiced concern over continued militant attacks on the Pakistan Army and paramilitary troops from the Afghan side of the border, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

The President stressed the need for NATO and Afghan security forces to act as an "anvil to Pakistan`s hammer operations".

The two sides discussed several issues, including bilateral relations, the fight against militancy and the regional situation, during two rounds of talks.

A delegation-level meeting was followed by another one in which Zardari was assisted by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

CIA-operated spy planes have carried out scores of attacks in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan that have killed top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud.

However, rights groups say dozens of civilians have also died in the attacks.

During his talks with the US delegation, Zardari also referred to the need to acknowledge sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against militancy.

The blame-game "will not serve the common purpose of defeating militants", he said.

Pakistan`s armed forces are doing a "heroic job despite the odds" but they were stretched in the tribal areas and need to be assisted with resources for long-term and sustained counter-terrorism operations, Zardari contended.

Zardari further said Pakistan-US ties are multifaceted and it would not be proper to see them through the prism of Afghanistan alone.

Expressing satisfaction at meetings of working groups on counter-terrorism and law enforcement, energy, economy, defence and non-proliferation, he said gains made in these talks need to be consolidated.

The President informed the delegation that Pakistan has framed a comprehensive counter-improvised explosive device strategy.

He sought the help of international partners for additional resources, including training, equipment and finances, to help Pakistan implement this strategy.

Zardari said the Fair Trial Act, which he signed into law yesterday, would help in the speedy and successful prosecution and conviction of terrorists, including those handling and transporting IEDs.

He reiterated Pakistan`s support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan and expressed support for the transition of security responsibilities from NATO to the Afghan government by 2014.

Referring to Pakistan-India relations, Zardari said Islamabad had liberalised trade with Delhi and wished to establish friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations as it desires the peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes.

Pakistan People`s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam, Defence Secretary Asif Yasin Malik and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani participated in the talks.


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