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Fight Against Terrorism - Key to US-Pak Relations
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US President George W. Bush and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz agreed on Tuesday to work closely to defeat terrorism following tensions over a US air-strike targeting al-Qaida members in remote Pakistan that left civilians dead.


"The relationship with Pakistan is a vital relationship for the US," Bush said at the White House. "I want to thank the prime minister and thank the president for working closely with us on a variety of issues. We're working closely to defeat the terrorists that would like to harm America and harm Pakistan."


Pakistan has long been a staunch ally of the US, which has been sparing no effort to liquidate militants loyal to the deposed the Taliban regime and the notorious terrorist group al-Qaida.


Being a right hand in "war on terror," Pakistan has reportedly transferred more than 700 terrorist suspects to US authorities.


However, relations between Islamabad and Washington have deteriorated since the January 13 air-strike that killed 18 Pakistani civilians, including women and children. The fatal attack, which destroyed three houses in the remote mountain hamlet of Damadola near the Afghan border, was said to have targeted but missed al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri.


Bush has not publicly commented on the air raid, but Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said Washington had assured Islamabad that it would not act against Pakistan's interests.


The attack prompted Pakistan to lodge a formal protest with Washington and sparked anti-US demonstrations in several Pakistani cities and towns.


Denouncing American violation of Pakistani sovereignty, Aziz told CNN on Sunday that such attacks should be cleared with the Pakistani government before they are carried out.


Thanks to great restraint by the Pakistani government in dealing with the incident, Pakistanis' strong and hostile sentiments toward Americans were eased before they got out of control.


On Monday, legislators in northwest Pakistan adopted a resolution, urging the Pakistani government to seek a UN Security Council condemnation of the incident, and demanding an apology from Washington. But Pakistani Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a briefing that the government would neither expel US Ambassador Ryan Crocker nor seek any apology from Washington.


"We have not sought an apology, but we have made it very clear to the US authorities that security inside Pakistan is the government of Pakistan's business," she said.


Besides, Aziz's Tuesday remarks demonstrated a clearer Pakistani attitude toward Washington.


Speaking briefly to reporters after meeting with Bush, Aziz said, "The US and Pakistan have a multifaceted relationship covering a host of areas ... and the people of Pakistan value the relationship very much."


"Terrorism knows no borders," he said. "So our coalition with the US in fighting terrorism is very important to all of the world and all of civil society."


"We are looking forward to President Bush's visit to Pakistan to carry this dialogue forward," he said. Bush has said he will travel to India and Pakistan in March.


It was generally believed that the basis of closer ties between Pakistan and the US lies first in common understanding of the necessity to wage a war on terror.


In terms of American global strategy, the Bush administration, which is now in its second term, has become more eager than ever before to root out terrorists who are based upon the mountainous regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.


(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2006)


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