Obama, Zardari discuss terrorism, blasphemy law

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Washington: Efforts to fight terrorism, situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan`s controversial blasphemy law figured prominently in a meeting between US President Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari at the White House.

Zardari, who was here on a two-day visit to attend the memorial service for late US special envoy for Af-Pak region Richard Holbrooke, held talks with Obama last evening.

"The discussion focussed on our shared efforts to fight terrorism and promote regional stability, specifically on the importance of cooperating toward a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan," the White House said.

During the 30-minute meeting, Obama told Zardari he is looking forward to visiting Pakistan later this year, it said.

"The President underscored the importance of the US-Pakistan relationship and our continued support for Pakistan."

Pakistan`s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani told a briefing after the meeting that both leaders agreed to further strengthen bilateral relations. "No body said Pakistan was not doing enough (against terrorism). Nothing negative was said about either country," he said.

Haqqani was the only Pakistani official to have accompanied Zardari for the Obama meeting at the Oval office.

Obama was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and his other counter-terrorism advisers.

The Obama-Zardari meeting comes within days of the Islamabad visit of US Vice President Joe Biden, where he met top Pakistani leadership, including Zardari.

White House officials said Zardari would be coming back to the US later this year on an official visit. Obama too has announced that he would be travelling to Pakistan later this year. Dates of both the visits have not been announced so far.

Farhatullah Babar, spokesperson for Zardari, said the talks between the two leaders focused on terrorism, democracy, economic reforms and aid to Pakistan in fight against terror.

During the meeting, Zardari said it was imperative Pakistan was assisted by the international community, especially the US, in the fight against militancy by addressing the economic problems of the country.

Pakistan`s controversial blasphemy law also came up during the talks between Zardari and Obama.

National Security Adviser Donilon said the two leaders talked about the overall relationship of their countries, as well as the economic situation in Pakistan.

"They talked about the blasphemy law," he said.

The blasphemy law is at the centre of a debate in Pakistan ever since a Christian woman was sentenced to death under it. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down recently by his security guard who was angered by his opposition to the law.

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