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Top US Official Promotes US-Pakistani Relations


The U.S. National Security Adviser, General James Jones, visited Islamabad on Thursday and praised the Pakistani army's commitment to defeat Islamic extremists. The general also called recent successes against Pakistani militants in northwestern Swat Valley a "confidence-builder" for relations between the United States and Pakistan.

General Jones is the latest in a string of high profile U.S. officials to visit Islamabad recently as the Pakistani army battles Taliban extremists in the northwest and, at the same time, hunts for Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in the South Waziristan region.

The U.S. national security adviser made the usual stops during his short visit to Pakistan, meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. General Jones also held talks with army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani.

During an interview with a local television network, Jones described current relations between the United States and Pakistan as "very important" and "strategic." He said cooperation between the two countries is on the right track, adding that this means more U.S. public support and assistance for Pakistan.

"We can help in a number of ways. Obviously, financial assistance is one way. But the closer cooperation between our militaries, mutual sharing of intelligence and closer cooperation among our various agencies of our government is going to have a dramatic effect," he said. This is going on. And this will not only be good for Pakistan, obviously, but it will be good for the region," he added.

Jones also commented on the contentious issue of restarting peace talks between Pakistan and India, stalled since last year's deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.

Pakistani President Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met last week in Russia in an attempt to break the stalemate. General Jones told Pakistani media the United States is committed to making sure India and Pakistan - traditionally fierce rivals - can combat the threat of terrorism on both sides of the border.

"We want to make sure that to the extent that we can be helpful, we will helpful with both our friends in Pakistan and India. We have to make sure that we understand that the severity of the threats of extremism, of the possibility of another Mumbai-style attack cannot be allowed to happen," said Jones.

After Thursday's meeting with General Jones, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani urged the United States to help mediate Pakistan's long-standing issues with India. And he urged the United States to cancel Pakistan's debt, saying his country's has suffered greatly being a front-line state in the war against terror.

General Jones is now headed to India, wrapping up his tour of South Asia, which began earlier this week in Afghanistan.
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