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US welcomes end to Pakistani stalemate

The United States has welcomed the resolution worked out by the Pakistani government, including the reinstatement of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to end a political stalemate, describing it as a first step in an ongoing process of reconciliation in that country.

"Well, of course, the Pakistanis themselves resolved the difficulties that were manifest over the last several days," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a joint media appearance with Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin after their meeting here on Monday.

Answering a question on the latest developments in Pakistan, Ms Clinton was all praise for the work done by US diplomats in helping to calm the situation there and prevent a confrontation between the Pakistani government and the Opposition.

"The work that was done by our Ambassador Anne Patterson and the Embassy staff, along with our Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and his staff, was, I think, very helpful in both working with the Pakistani leaders themselves and in keeping our government informed," she said.

Ms Clinton said she had spoken to both President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

"And I believe that the resolution that they have agreed upon is the first step of what has to be an ongoing reconciliation and compromising of political views that can stabilize civilian democracy and the rule of law, both of which are essential to the efforts that the Pakistanis themselves see as so critical; namely, preventing extremism and violence from stalking the Pakistani people and the country," she said.

Ms Clinton said the US would continue its "very close working relationship with the government and a number of Pakistani leaders in the days and weeks ahead."

"We have another trilateral meeting scheduled a few months off. So there will be an ongoing effort to make our services available and to help the Pakistanis fight against our common enemy," she added.

Later, the State Department's acting spokesman Robert Wood said that in her telephone calls to the Pakistani leadership, Ms Clinton "wanted to make sure that Pakistani officials understood what our views were on the current situation and the importance of there not being any violence and the need for political dialogue. And that was the purpose of her phone calls.

"Frankly, what brought Pakistan back from the brink was, basically, decisions made by the Pakistani leadership. So this was basically decisions made by Pakistanis for Pakistanis. And they deserve all the credit," he said.

Mr Wood said Ms Clinton had not made any specific demands or threats during her conversations with them.

"The Secretary made no demands at all....No threats at all. The Secretary was expressing the views of the U.S. Government on how we wanted to see the crisis resolved, and that’s exactly what happened," he said.

In reply to persistent questioning, Mr Wood said that, basically, Ms Clinton said to both Mr Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that the US was very concerned about the situation in Pakistan was developing.

"And she wanted to make clear that non-violence was the way forward, that the Pakistani people need to be assured that the leadership was taking their interests, you know, first and foremost, and want – as I said, wanted to emphasize the importance of non-violence, and that there not be any impediments to peaceful democratic assembly. And that was the essence of the Secretary’s phone call," he said.

He also said that Ms Clinton had made three separate calls to Mr Zardari, Mr Gilani and Mr Sharif.

In reply to another question, Mr Wood said the political situation in Pakistan had been a concern to the US and other governments around the world.

"And what we have tried to encourage the Pakistanis to do is to, you know, take a look at the situation, understand what the implications are of further political instability, and to take steps necessary to move the country away from the brink. And I think the decisions that were taken over the weekend were very important steps in that direction.

"And as I said, you know, all of the credit goes to the Pakistanis for this. This was not something that the U.S. helped bring about. This was something that the Pakistanis decided needed to be done in order to move the country away, as I said, from the brink," he said.

Responding to a specific question about whether Ms Clinton had also called Indian leaders in this connection, Mr Wood said, "I’m not aware of any calls that the Secretary made to Indian leaders. I don’t believe she made any over this weekend."

Mr Wood said there clearly was more that had to be done in terms of "getting a real substantive political dialogue back on track in Pakistan."

The spokesman said one of the reasons why Ms Clinton felt she needed to talk to the Pakistani leaders was the concern that the tensions in Pakistan was diverting the government there away from "its principal enemy---which is al-Qaida--its principal enmies, al-Qaida and the Taliban."

INT

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