NATO invites Zardari to Chicago Summit



Islamabad: NATO on Tuesday invited Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to its crucial upcoming Chicago summit, a day after Foreign Minister Khar publicly indicated Pakistan's willingness to end its six-month blockade of supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary General Rasmussen telephoned Zardari in the afternoon and invited him to the NATO summit in Chicago beginning from the 20th of this month.

President's spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the invitation by NATO Secretary General for the NATO summit "was unconditional and not linked to the reopening of ground lines of communication for NATO or to any other issue".

President Zardari informed the NATO Secretary General that he would consider the invitation in the light of the guidelines of the Parliament and the advice of the government.

The President said that a decision on the invitation will be communicated to NATO later.

However, official sources told a news agency that the government had decided in principle to accept the invitation as part of efforts to reset relations with the US and NATO, which had plunged to a new low after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a cross-border NATO air strike in November last year.

Following the attack, Pakistan closed all NATO supply routes and forced American personnel to vacate Shamsi airbase, considered a hub for CIA-operated drones.

Following a review of Pakistan-US ties, a joint session of parliament adopted a resolution that sought an unconditional apology from the US for the air strike.

Several American leaders expressed regret for the air strike but the US administration refused to offer a formal apology, hampering efforts to put bilateral relations back on an even keel.

During a news conference yesterday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the time had come for Pakistan to "move on" and repair relations with the US.

PTI