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US says it supports a democratic set-up in Pak

Washington: US on Tuesday downplayed the impact of current political turmoil in Pakistan on war against Islamic extremists saying that its focus was on building strategic ties with Islamabad, but said it supported a democratic set-up in the country.

In its first comment on the developing political chaos in Pakistan, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said US was watching the situation closely and was "supportive of the democratic resolution of all internal disputes in Pakistan."

"We will continue to work with the Pakistani government.

We`re building a strategic relationship with Pakistan," he said if US feared that political crisis could be a distraction in the fight against terrorists.

"This is about internal politics within Pakistan, which has a parliamentary system, and a coalition government, and there`s activity within that coalition, and the government is working to clarify what their support is," he said.

Pakistan`s beleaguered Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has opened talks with opposition PML-Q group to shore up support for his government which has been reduced to minority by withdrawal of support by two allies Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.

The crisis in Pakistan comes at a time when Washington is pressing Islamabad hard to launch a military campaign in north Waziristan, where it estimates that the bulk of Al-qaeda, Taliban and Haqqani network militants are holed-up.

Crowley said a civilian government is essential to the future of Pakistan and to building institutions of government that can transform the relationship between the Pakistani people and the government.

"So we continue to support the Pakistani Government. I can`t say at this point that the fact that they have this current political situation necessarily distracts them from what else they`re doing," he said.

Crowley said fight against Islamic terrorism, in the long-term is in the interest of Pakistan.

"Fighting extremists within its borders that is a threat to Pakistani civil society is definitely in Pakistan`s interest," he said.

"Getting its financial house in order is definitely in Pakistan`s interest. Building and expanding the capacity of civilian-led government in Pakistan is definitely in Pakistan`s interest. But the government obviously is confronting a challenge within its coalition. These things happen in parliamentary systems all the time," he said.

"We are going to encourage, and provide support that we`ve outlined to help expand its capacity, address the challenge inside its borders, and help put its finances on more solid footing," he said, adding that there is every indication government is taking steps to deal with this political situation.

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