Zardari seeks civilian nuclear technology from US


By: Daily TImes

* President tells Dennis Blair civil nuclear, drone technologies will help bridge trust deficit
* Blair reiterates US commitment to work closely with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday called on the US administration to assist Pakistan with civilian nuclear technology, and sought the early transfer of drone technology.

“Civilian nuclear technology will help Pakistan meet its growing energy demand… the [transfer of] drone technology will… [lead to] wider public acceptability [of strikes],” said Zardari at a meeting with Director of US National Intelligence Dennis C Blair, who had called on him at the Presidency. The president said the two technologies could also facilitate the bridging of a trust deficit between the two countries.

Zardari expressed reservations over the new screening regime for Pakistani nationals, and called for a review.

Briefing the media after the meeting, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said, “The president said the provision of civilian nuclear technology would go a long way in addressing misperceptions about the US in Pakistan.” He quoted the president as saying that US drone attacks “on our soils not only infringe Pakistan’s sovereignty, but also undermine national consensus against the war on terror”.

The president also called for the US to expedite the passage of reconstruction opportunity zones legislation. “We need to create opportunities for the people to prevent them from falling in the trap of the militants,” said the president.

Zardari said Pakistan had suffered a huge loss of over $35 billion over the last eight years as a result of the fight against militancy, in addition to social and human losses. “With limited resources, our security forces have achieved remarkable success against militants.”

Babar said the president called for working on a counter-terrorism strategy within the agreed parameters and establishing an effective intelligence-sharing mechanism between the two countries.

Zardari also asked the US to help strengthen Pakistan’s counter-terrorism capabilities through the provision of timely assistance and necessary tools and equipment.

About the regional situation, Zardari said Pakistan had legitimate interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, and welcomed international assistance in this context. Blair praised the government and Pakistan’s security forces for their struggle against militancy, and reiterated the US administration’s commitment to work closely with the government.

The meeting was attended by Neil H Joeck, national intelligence officer for the South Asia National Intelligence Council; US Ambassador Anne Patterson; and US Regional Affairs Counsellor Jonathan D Bank – while the Pakistani side was represented by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Secretary General to the President Salman Faruqui, Senator Sughra Imam and other senior officials.

Separately, Blair also met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who said the immediate development of the areas cleared of militants was crucial to retain national consensus and public support in the war on terror. He said a damage assessment of these areas had already been undertaken, along with the identification of viable development projects. He said the international community should step forward to help Pakistan undertake these projects.

About the upcoming Pakistan-US strategic dialogue, Gilani said concrete and visible signs of implementation of commitments in sectors already identified was compulsory.

He said a successful strategic dialogue would be greatly beneficial in bridging the trust deficit between the two countries and addressing misperceptions over Pak-US relations.

He also highlighted the importance of increased market access for Pakistani exporters in the US.

Gilani called on the international community to honour the pledges made in Tokyo last years, to accelerate the pace of rebuilding and development in Swat, Malakand and FATA. He hoped that he US would expedite projects being undertaken in the energy sector of Pakistan to overcome the power shortage in the country.

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