Obama ‘briefly’ meets Zardari


Washington : US President Barack Obama spoke “briefly” with Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari twice on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Chicago, the White House has said, contradicting media reports of Obama shunning Zardari.

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Obama “spoke briefly with President Zardari twice”, first in a “brief one-on-one conversation as they made their way into the ISAF meeting” Monday, Xinhua reported citing a White House statement.

Later, Obama again spoke briefly with Zardari, this time joined by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The leaders underscored their “shared commitment to an Afghan-led reconciliation process to bring the war to a responsible end”, the statement said.

Obama and Zardari did not have a formal bilateral meeting at the summit.

At a press briefing after the summit concluded, Obama said he emphasised to Zardari that Pakistan “has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan”.

The two countries “share a common enemy of extremists”, and need to work through some of the tensions that has been created because of 10 years of US military presence in the region, Obama said.

The two sides, however, failed to reach an agreement to reopen the NATO supply route through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Obama said Zardari shared his belief that issues between Pakistan and NATO, as well as between Pakistan and the US will be resolved, and the supply route will be reopened soon.

The routes, through which 40 percent of NATO’s non-lethal supplies passed to Afghanistan, were closed in November after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a NATO air strike on a Pakistan Army border post.

Zardari also met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and “their discussions focused on Afghanistan”, Ban’s spokesman said.