Pakistan Leader Meets With Rice on Missile Strikes
Pakistan's president pressed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday to halt cross-border U.S. missile strikes targeting militants in his country's volatile tribal regions, the Pakistani foreign minister said.
"These drone attacks are unproductive, and they are contributing to alienation as opposed to winning people over," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in an interview after briefing reporters on the 20-minute meeting between Rice and President Asif Ali Zardari.
The U.S. military is believed to have carried out at least 18 missile attacks on suspected militant targets close to the border in Pakistan since August. The missiles are believed to be fired from unmanned planes launched in Afghanistan, where some 32,000 U.S. troops are fighting a resurgent Taliban insurgency.
The strikes also should be halted to avoid the inadvertent deaths of civilians, Qureshi said. "In fact, what is required is more sharing of intelligence information. What is required is building Pakistan's capacity to deal with insurgency," he said.
State Department officials declined to comment on the meeting.
President-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration presents a fresh opportunity for Pakistan to emphasize more dialogue and development, Qureshi said.
"We'll be discussing with them a more comprehensive strategy. Because Pakistan is of the view that military means is not the be-all and the end-all," he said.
The drone attacks topped the Pakistani concerns aired during the meeting between Rice and Zardari, he said. The two also talked about strategies for dealing with terror networks without inflaming anti-American sentiment and the financial crisis gripping Pakistan and the rest of the world, Qureshi said.
It was one of a series of high-level private talks at the U.N. on Wednesday. These bilateral meetings among world leaders, some including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, occurred on the sidelines of a high-level U.N. interfaith conference organized by the King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Rice also met behind closed doors with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Saudi king, two U.S. diplomatic officials said. The State Department declined to comment on those meetings, too.
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