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US, Pakistan Make Progress Toward Restoring Defense Ties - 2002-09-27

A U.S. delegation has concluded two-days of talks with Pakistani officials that focused on restoring defense ties between the two countries, as well as counter-terrorism efforts. Washington suspended military ties over Pakistan's nuclear weapons tests in 1998.

The delegates say they discussed issues relating to cooperation between the two countries' armies. Their joint statement says the Pakistan/U.S. Defense Consultative group also discussed ways Pakistan could procure major U.S. weapons system.

The leader of the Pakistani delegation, Defense Secretary Hamid Nawaz, told reporters a list of "requirements" has been handed over to the U.S. delegation. He would not say what those requirements were. He says the forum's next meeting will be in Washington, in March, when the United States is expected to respond to the list.

U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith led the American delegation.

"We have put together now a defense and military relationship of levels where we are talking about our strategic views together, reviewing the security issues relating to the war on terrorism generally," he explained. " We are pursuing combined exercises and training that we can do together."

Rapidly improving defense ties are seen as a reward for Pakistan's close cooperation in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Mr. Feith says, in the discussions, the United States agreed to enhance Islamabad's capability to track down al-Qaida suspects hiding in Pakistan.

"It is very much in the interest of both the United States and Pakistan that Pakistani armed forces and Pakistani police be as successful as they possibly can in identifying locations, and successfully moving against the terrorists that are operating in Pakistan. They are a threat to the United States, they are a threat to Pakistan and they are a threat globally," he noted.

Mr. Feith says the two sides also discussed ways to enhance cooperation in patrolling Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition is hunting fugitive al-Qaida and Taleban militants in the border areas.