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Pakistan’s PM Sharif urges Obama to stop drone strikes


Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (photo) pressed US President Barack Obama on Wednesday to stop drone strikes in his country, as the two leaders sought to strengthen ties after years of strained relations.


Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, where he urged America to stop drone strikes in his country as the two leaders sought to mend years of frayed relations.

“I ... brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasising the need for an end to such strikes,” Sharif told reporters in the Oval Office.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that although top Pakistani officials have criticised the US’ drone programme, they secretly endorsed it for years and are routinely given classified briefings on targets and casualties.

The Post, citing secret CIA information and Pakistani diplomatic memos, said that markings on some documents indicated they were prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center to be presented to officials in Pakistan. The newspaper said a CIA spokesman it contacted did not dispute the authenticity of the documents.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

The United States’ controversial drone programme, a key part of its fight against terrorism, has long been a source of friction between the two nations. Obama did not respond directly, but did acknowledge that efforts to strengthen ties could be a “challenge”.

“We committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries, it can be a source of strength,” he said.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused the United States of breaking international law by killing civilians in drone strikes. The US defended its actions, arguing that drones caused far less civilian casualties than other forms of attack.

Resetting US-Pakistani relations

US-Pakistani relations were badly strained following a 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, just 50 kilomtres north of the capital Islamabad, where he was in hiding. The same year, ties were further aggravated after a NATO air strike accidentally killed Pakistani border guards, and a CIA contractor killed two men on the streets of Lahore.

Recently, however, the two countries have been looking to re-establish ties, as the US prepares to withdraw forces from Afghanistan next year.

“There’s a real need for both sides to try and create a more warm bilateral relationship than the one that has existed,” Simon Marks, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Washington D.C., reported. “With Nawaz Sharif’s re-emergence on the scene... the United States was very hopeful that this could be a ‘kiss and make-up summit.’”

Sharif was elected prime minister in June in a historic election that marked Pakistan’s first civilian transfer of power after the completion of a full term by a democratically elected government. He is the first Pakistani leader to visit the White House in five years.

As part of efforts to strengthen ties with Pakistan, the United States has quietly decided to restart security aid to the country, which had been frozen since 2011. Much of US security aid to Pakistan is intended to bolster the ability of its military to counter fighters in semi-autonomous tribal areas.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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