Clinton: US eager to resume Pakistan contacts

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By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Thursday for the resumption of a full range of formal contacts with Pakistan after its parliament completes a review of strained ties between the two countries.

At a meeting on the sidelines of an international conference on Somalia in London, Clinton outlined to Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar a series of steps the U.S. would like to see once the review has been completed.

Clinton, speaking to reporters, called the meeting a "constructive discussion of our common concerns."

"I'm sure we will continue to have our ups and downs," she said. "But this relationship is too important to turn our back on — for both nations."

A senior U.S. official said those steps include visits by top American diplomats, including the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, along with a return to three-way talks between the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan declined a visit by Grossman earlier this year.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting, said the U.S. would respect the parliamentary review but wanted to prepare for a return to "structured conversations" once the review is complete. Clinton, the official said, wanted "to get ready to get back into business with Pakistan." A vote on the review is expected in mid-March.

U.S.-Pakistan ties have been troubled for some time, mainly over alleged Pakistani support for Islamist extremists, but deteriorated badly in in November when U.S. airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two Afghan border posts, fueling an already pervasive anti-American sentiment throughout the country.

That incident sparked the parliamentary review, which is aimed at producing a new set of guidelines for the bilateral relationship that could pave the way for repairing relations.

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