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Give peace a chance: Gilani tells Hillary

Islamabad: Against the backdrop of growing US pressure to crack down on militant groups like the Haqqani network that operate along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today called on the US to "give peace a chance".

During a meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gilani referred to the message of giving "peace a chance" as envisaged in a resolution passed by a recent meeting of Pakistan`s political parties and said this "reflects the sentiments of the Pakistani nation". Clinton called on Gilani at the Prime Minister`s House this evening shortly after she flew into Islamabad from Kabul.

Addressing a news conference in Kabul, Clinton had said she intended to "push Pakistan very hard" on the issue of combating in areas bordering Afghanistan. A statement issued by the Prime Minister`s House made no mention of whether Clinton had raised the issue of taking action against the Haqqani network, which US officials have alleged is being used by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency to wage a proxy war in Afghanistan.

The statement merely said Gilani referred the resolution passed by the recent All Parties Conference to Clinton. Gilani reiterated the "collective national view on the issue of peace in Afghanistan as articulated in the All Parties Conferences resolution". "Disagreements between coalition partners in the war on terror should not undermine (the US-Pakistan) strategic relationship which is so vital for the promotion of mutual interests of the two countries," Gilani said. .

Gilani said both countries should complement each other in countering terrorism and their relationship should "go beyond terrorism". The statement quoted Clinton as saying: "I have too much respect for Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and for the country." It said she recognized the importance of Pakistan in the context of regional peace and security and "appreciated the All Parties Conference?s resolution, which she said was a right message from Pakistan to the world".

The statement said the meeting between Clinton and Gilani was held in a "cordial and frank atmosphere". The discussions focused on bilateral relations, especially in security, economy, energy and investment. "Both sides stressed the importance of positive messaging in public diplomacy to promote an enabling environment between the two countries," the statement added.

The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, army chief Gen Asfhaq Pervaz Kayani, ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, CIA chief David Petraeus, US Special Representative Marc Grossman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen Martin Dempesy.

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