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Pakistani Prime Minister: Islamabad Remains Solid US Ally in War on Terrorism - 2003-10-03

Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali says that his country is eager to continue the fight against terrorism, but that the United States must also consider Islamabad's needs in the process. During an address in Washington, Thursday, Mr. Jamali also called for the removal of U.S. trade barriers on Pakistani goods.

Prime Minister Jamali's trip to Washington coincided with a major Pakistani military operation against suspected al-Qaida and Taleban militants near the Afghan-Pakistani border.

In his speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Jamali stressed that Islamabad remains a solid U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. "Pakistan's commitment to the war on terror reflects our deep concern for the way this menace has challenged our way of life," he said. "In this respect, our partnership with the United States is a continuation of an ongoing relationship in which the two countries have worked together for stability and order in the world."

Last week, President Bush and his Pakistani counterpart General Pervez Musharraf met in New York. The prime minister held talks with President Bush at the White House before his appearance at the Chamber of Commerce.

In his remarks to the chamber, Mr. Jamali also gave an upbeat presentation on Pakistan's recent economic performance. He stressed that his country has made progress towards establishing a modern, free-market economy in the past year and since he became prime minister.

"The existing state of our economy is characterized by a robust sense of stability and the return of investor confidence," said Mr. Jamali. "The fiscal situation is particularly upbeat and the debt burden under control. All the key indicators have performed well."

But Prime Minister Jamali also made clear that in his view, everything is not right in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. He criticized last April's U.S. government advisory urging American citizens to leave Pakistan. Mr. Jamali suggested that the advisory unjustly tars his country as a dangerous and lawless place.

After his address, the prime minister also said the United States should recognize that Pakistan has, in his words, stuck its neck out for Washington since the September 11th (2001) terrorist attacks.

"I think they should appreciate the efforts of Pakistan," he said. "Lifting away the travel advisory is the job of the American government, not my job. We feel that it is a hindrance and I think they should remove it."

Mr. Jamali also said Pakistan, which does not yet have a free trade agreement with Washington, has also been hurt by the U.S. stately of seeking bilateral trade deals with other developing countries. Pakistan and many other developing countries say bilateral agreements undermine their efforts to draft a comprehensive, international deal that would eliminate trade barriers set by industrialized nations.

Nonetheless, Mr. Jamali said Pakistan hopes to sign a bilateral agreement with Washington in the future - apparently meaning that he feels Islamabad may have no choice in the matter.