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Pakistan's Foreign Minister Urges Long-Term US Commitment to Region

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Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Tuesday that the United States must reassure the people of his country and neighboring Afghanistan that it has a "long-term vision" to stabilize the region. The Pakistani minister met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department for talks focusing on the Afghan situation and American aid to the Islamabad government.

Appearing at a press event with Secretary Clinton, the Pakistani foreign minister declined to comment on whether the Obama administration should send more troops to Afghanistan. But he said that stability in region depends on the United States sending a message that it is prepared for a major commitment to boost economic prosperity and combat extremism.

"The people of the region have to be reassured that the United States has a long-term vision, not just for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the entire region," said Shah Mehmood Qureshi. "And when I say that, we have to keep in mind history. We have to keep in mind the past. Right And the inconsistency of the past has to be kept in mind, and we have to build on learning from the mistakes of the past."

Secretary Clinton and her Pakistani counterpart discussed the unprecedented five-year, $7.5-billion U.S. civilian aid program approved by the U.S. Congress last week. U.S. aid would be conditioned on Pakistan ending support for extremist groups and its military staying out of civilian politics.

The measure - welcomed by the Islamabad government - has been criticized by some Pakistanis who say its terms, and an expected larger U.S. presence to administer the program, would lead to American interference in their country's affairs.

Clinton said the United States has no such intention.

"I regret that some people do not understand," said Hillary Clinton. "But I am sure with the help of the Pakistani press represented here, we can reinforced the minister's words that this is a sincere effort put forth by our Congress, with the full support of President Obama and myself to assist the people of Pakistan."

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Qureshi said he believed the Obama administration would not interfere in his country's internal affairs.

"We have in President Obama and Secretary Clinton two individuals who want to befriend Pakistan, the people of Pakistan," he said. "And I'm very clear they have no intentions of micromanaging Pakistan. Nor will Pakistan permit micromanagement. I am very clear in my mind that they have no intentions of trampling on Pakistan's sovereignty."

U.S. officials say the aid program will require an expansion of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad and security there with a greater presence of U.S. security contractors - a concern highlighted by the bombing of the United Nations World Food Program office in the Pakistani capital this week.