ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said she believes Osama Bin Laden is still in Pakistan.
She was speaking in a television interview during her visit to Islamabad.
Earlier, Clinton announced a raft of aid projects for Pakistan aimed at defusing anti-American sentiment and shoring up anti-terrorism efforts.
Clinton arrived in the capital Sunday en route to a donor conference in Kabul, calling for “additional measures” by Pakistan to combat militant groups on its soil believed to be behind attacks on the United States and Afghanistan.
Opening talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Clinton said she hoped the aid projects, focused on water and energy needs in the country, would “lay the foundations for an enduring partnership” with Pakistan.
The projects will include two energy dams, various drinking water and irrigation projects, as well as the building of health centres and schemes to improve agriculture and private sector income.
They are part of a five-year $7.5 billion funding approved by the US Congress last year and a key part of the effort by the US administration to engage more fully with Pakistan, which has long seen Washington as interested only in securing its military cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
“We know that there is a perception held by too many Pakistanis that America’s commitment to them begins and ends with security,” said Clinton.
“We have not done a good enough job of connecting our partnership with concrete improvements in the lives of Pakistanis. With this dialogue, we are working to change that.”
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hailed the “transformational phase” in relations between the two countries during his remarks ahead of talks with Clinton.
“We’re committed to work together to build a stable, broad-based and enduring partnership…. The world has a vital stake in the success of our efforts,” he said.
The United States has long voiced concern that elements of Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence service were supporting Taliban insurgents, despite the government’s public anti-terror stance.
On Sunday Clinton said in an interview with the BBC: “There are still additional steps that we are asking and expecting the Pakistanis to take.
She noted that Washington and Islamabad had “increased our cooperation, deepened our relationship, when it comes to fighting terrorism.”
“But there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that should an attack against the United States be traced to be Pakistani it would have a very devastating impact on our relationship,” she added.
US ‘concerns’ over Pakistan-China nuclear deal
The United States also conveyed its “concerns” to Islamabad over China’s sale of two civilian nuclear reactors to Pakistan, Clinton told a press conference on the same day.
Washington has already sought clarification from Beijing on the deal to build two new 650 megawatt reactors in Punjab, saying it must be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
“We believe that the NSG, which has recently met to examine the sale that you are referring to has posed a series of questions that should be answered because as part of any kind of transaction involving nuclear power, there are concerns by international community, Pakistan knows that,” said Clinton.
“We have conveyed them (concerns), other members of the NSG conveyed them and we look forward to answers of those questions posed,” she told reporters in the Pakistani capital.
The deal was revealed in the British press in April and comes after China in 2004 entered the NSG, a group of nuclear energy states that forbids exports to nations lacking strict International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
I believe bin Laden still in Pakistan: Clinton
Clinton also said on Monday that she believed Osama bin Laden was still in Pakistan, in a television interview between high-level talks in Islamabad.
“I believe (bin Laden) is here in Pakistan and it would be very helpful if we could take them (Al-Qaeda leaders),” Clinton said.
Last month head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said Al-Qaeda mastermind bin Laden remained in “very deep hiding”, nine years after the world’s most-wanted fugitive first disappeared following the 2001 attacks.
Clinton seeks more from Pakistan in terror fight
The US Secretary of State Hillary said that she sought tougher action from Islamabad to combat militants ahead of a key donor meeting in Afghanistan.
“There are still additional steps that we are asking and expecting the Pakistanis to take,” she told the BBC.
“… there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that should an attack against the United States be traced to be Pakistani it would have a very devastating impact on our relationship,” she added.
A Pakistani-American arrested over the botched car bombing in New York’s Times Square in May allegedly received explosives training from experts linked to the Pakistani militant group the Tehrik-e-Taliban.
Clinton confirmed that Washington planned to formally designate Pakistan’s Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organisation.
The network, which is battling coalition troops in Afghanistan and is thought to have close links with Pakistan’s intelligence services, is one of the toughest foes faced by foreign forces in Afghanistan.
A senior US official speaking on condition of anonymity said closer ties with Pakistan’s powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani were helping in the struggle against the militant Haqqani network.
“The amount of engagement we have with General Kayani… is unprecedented. We feel that we’re making some slow but steady forward movement (on Haqqani),” the official said.
Clinton was due to meet Kayani for closed-door discussions later Monday before travelling to Kabul for a key international conference focused on charting a course for the war-torn country’s future involving less dependency on its Western backers.
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