Zardari in Chicago to discuss on NATO supply routes

Washington: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is in Chicago for a crucial NATO summit where he is set to discuss the reopening of the Afghan supply routes, but a top US official said the resolution would still take time amid signs of friction between the two sides.

The summit is expected to make important decisions with regard to the future of Afghanistan, and the presence of the Pakistani President was being seen as a sign of improved US-Pak ties.

While the run up to the summit saw hopes mounting of a possible resolution to the issue of reopening of the NATO supply routes, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta`s comments that Pakistan was demanding quite a high price for reopening of the routes set a negative tone before the meetings.

Zardari`s first scheduled appointment with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was cancelled, ostensibly because of delay in his arrival at Chicago. The meeting was now being rescheduled and US Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, said the issue of supply routes would take some time to be resolved.

In an interview to Los Angeles Times before arriving in Chicago, Panetta suggested the demand to pay Pakistan USD 5,000 for each truck carrying supplies across its territory for NATO troops in Afghanistan was not likely to be obliged. "Considering the financial challenges that we`re facing, that`s not likely," Panetta said.

Over the next few days, Zardari is scheduled to have a series of bilateral meetings with several world leaders attending the Chicago summit including the Afghan President and those from Australia and Turkey.