Pakistan's Sharif takes up post-war ties with Obama

Pakistan's Sharif takes up post-war ties with Obama

WASHINGTON - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif heads to the White House Wednesday seeking to build a new type of post-Afghanistan war relationship as he presses for an end to drone strikes.

In a nod to the fading of tensions since the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama's administration has moved to release more than US$300 million (S$370 million) in blocked security assistance to Pakistan.

But tensions remain over the US campaign of drone attacks aimed at extremists deep inside the country's lawless areas. Sharif urged an end to the strikes, which a new Amnesty International report said may violate international law by killing civilians.

But Sharif, calling for a fresh partnership with the United States on the eve of his meeting with Obama, largely steered clear of Pakistan's past narrative of outside interference that has jarred relations.

"It is my endeavour to approach this important relationship with an open and fresh mind, leaving behind the baggage of trust deficit and mutual suspicions," Sharif said at the US Institute of Peace.

"The greatest challenge to Pakistan comes from terrorism and extremism," Sharif said, calling his nation "a major victim" of a decade of attacks that have killed more than 40,000 people.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama hoped to use the meeting with Sharif to promote "a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan that is contributing to regional and international security and prosperity."

The White House meeting is Sharif's first since he swept to power in May elections. It comes a year before the United States plans to pull out combat troops from Afghanistan, ending its longest war launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Afghan war instantly transformed Pakistan into a sometimes reluctant US war partner, with the then military government agreeing to help Washington overthrow Islamabad's erstwhile Taliban allies.

In a message sure to be welcomed at the White House, Sharif said that Pakistan supported a "peaceful, stable and unified Afghanistan" - whose leaders often accuse Pakistan's powerful spy network of covertly supporting the Taliban.

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