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Senator Kerry Calls for Improved US-Pakistan Ties

Photo released by Pakistan Press Information department shows Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, (3rd L) and U. S. Senator John Kerry (2nd L) in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 16, 2011
Photo released by Pakistan Press Information department shows Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, (3rd L) and U. S. Senator John Kerry (2nd L) in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 16, 2011

Following Monday's talks with Pakistani leaders, U.S. Senator John Kerry told reporters he had not come to ask forgiveness from Pakistan, but instead to make repairs in the relationship caused by the U.S. raid.

"My goal in coming here was not to apologize for what I consider to be a triumph against terrorism of an unprecedented consequence," said Kerry. "My goal has been to talk with the leaders here about how to manage this critical relationship more effectively."

Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the most senior U.S. official to visit Pakistan since the May 2 raid, met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad, after holding talks with Pakistan's army chief on Sunday.

Prime Minister Gilani warned last week that any future unilateral actions such as the U.S. military operation that killed bin Laden would carry serious consequences. U.S. officials, meanwhile, questioned how the al-Qaida leader was able to hide out in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad without being detected.

Soldiers keep guard around a compound within which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad May 3, 2011
Soldiers keep guard around a compound within which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad May 3, 2011

There has also been speculation that the leadership actually helped bin Laden to find refuge in Pakistan. Senator Kerry said, at this time, there is no proof of Pakistani complicity in hiding the al-Qaida leader.

"None, no evidence to suggest that the high leadership of this country: civilian or military, intelligence- had any knowledge, we don't know that," Kerry said.

But Kerry warned that mistrust and anger in the United States concerning Pakistan. The senator says several of his colleagues in the U.S. Congress have expressed a desire to break or significantly alter the relationship with Islamabad.

Senator Kerry highlighted that the plan to move forward would be based on real developments and not empty promises.

"Let me emphasize, and I emphasized this in every meeting that we had, this road ahead will not be defined by words, it will be defined by actions," he said.

Senator Kerry said he understood the concern by Pakistan about the breach in national sovereignty, but said Pakistanis need to recognize the circumstances.

"We recognize that the Pakistani people and their leaders take their sovereignty seriously. Every nation does," said the senator. "That's why it's important to underscore the extra-ordinary circumstances behind the mission against Bin Laden."

Before leaving Pakistan, Senator Kerry said he hoped that the relationship could be repaired because both sides share common strategic interests, primarily the fight against terrorism and extremism.

The U.S. lawmaker announced that his trip this week would be followed up by a visit from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the coming weeks.

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