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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Biden on Pakistan

MUNICH, Feb 7: US Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday that no strategy for Afghanistan could succeed without Pakistan’s assistance.

“We must all strengthen our cooperation with the people and government of Pakistan, help them stabilise the tribal areas and promote economic development and opportunity throughout the country,” he said in a major foreign policy address at the Munich Security Conference.

He said the United States was seeking to set “clear and achievable” goals for Afghanistan in a comprehensive strategy for which both Washington and its allies must take responsibility.

This strategy should bring together US civilian and military resources in order to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for militants and help Afghans develop the capacity to secure their own future, he added.

Mr Biden promised a “new tone” in foreign policy under Barack Obama, but warned other nations that improved relations were a two-way street.

“I come to Europe on behalf of a new administration determined to set a new tone not only in Washington, but in America’s relations around the world,” he added.

He said that it was time to “reset the button” on Washington’s frosty ties with Moscow, and that the US was willing to talk with the “great people” of Iran after three decades of frozen relations.

But speaking on his first trip abroad since taking office along with President Obama on January 20, he said that US allies must also lift their game.

“America will do more, but America will ask for more from our partners. As we seek a lasting framework for our common struggle against extremism, we will have to work cooperatively with nations around the world -- and we will need your help,” Mr Biden said.

As an example, he said, the United States would ask other countries to take in inmates from Guantanamo, predecessor George W. Bush’s “war on terror” prison which appalled many allies and which Obama has said he will close.

Mr Biden’s comments were made at a conference with top power brokers from around the world, including from Russia and Iran, focusing on a range of hot-button security issues for the 21st century. These include Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, US plans for elements of a missile defence shield on Russia’s doorstep in eastern and central Europe, and the raging Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Other talking points included nuclear disarmament, the Middle East, the future of the Nato military alliance 20 years after the end of the Cold War, energy security and Iraq.

US president Obama has said that he will offer arch-foe Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic’s leaders “unclenched their fist”.

But Biden said that Tehran must abandon efforts to developing the bomb. “We will be willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down the current course and there will be continued pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear programme and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives,” he said.

Missile shield Russia was angered by Washington’s plans to put interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic that former president Bush said would detect and shoot down incoming missiles from “rogue states” like Iran.

Ties have been made even frostier by the prospect of Nato expansion, Russia’s short war with Georgia in August and western accusations that Moscow uses its hydrocarbon superpower status as a weapon in foreign relations.

Mr Biden announced that the United States -- reeling from its worst recession in decades -- would press ahead with the shield only if it can be proved that the technology works and is cost effective.

“We will do so in consultation with you, our Nato allies, and with Russia,” Biden said. “It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together.”

He also signalled that the Obama team was ready to consider Russian demands in negotiations -- stalled under Bush -- to renew START, a key Cold War-era nuclear disarmament treaty set to expire in December.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

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