Anita Joshua

ISLAMABAD: U. S. National Security Adviser James L. Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta on Wednesday briefed the Pakistani leadership about the ongoing investigations into the bombing attempt at New York City's Times Square.

This is the highest-level interaction that has taken place officially between the two countries after Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad was picked up for the bombing attempt and the subsequent harsh comments made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. To ensure that both sides speak with one voice on what transpired at the meeting, a “Joint U.S.-Pakistan Statement” was issued after the interaction stressing the need to continue with the existing relationship. According to the statement, General Jones expressed appreciation for the “excellent cooperation the United States is receiving from Pakistan'' as well as the “tremendous sacrifice'' of its military, law enforcement and people in their efforts to combat extremists. He also reiterated America's “long-term commitment'' to the strategic partnership with Pakistan including support for creating economic opportunities for the Pakistani people.

Mr. Zardari described militancy and terrorism as a common enemy and stressed the need for continuing with the “existing robust cooperation'', said the statement. He articulated Pakistan's desire to have a “long-term, multi-faceted and durable relationship'' with the U. S.; one that can withstand any incident.

Also discussed were steps needed to prevent potential attacks like the attempted bombing at Times Square from occurring again while both countries acknowledged the extreme challenge involved in thwarting each and every plot and terrorist action.

While the Americans were also represented by their Ambassador Ann Patterson, President Asif Ali Zardari led the discussions for the Pakistanis in the presence of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Muhammad Qureshi, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir.

Later, the American delegation drove to General Headquarters in Rawalpindi for a separate meeting with General Kayani.

In a related development, newly appointed British Foreign Secretary William Hague telephoned Mr. Qureshi to “establish early contact'' with him and carry forward bilateral relations.

They also discussed Afghanistan which Mr. Hague identified as a “top most foreign policy'' priority for the coalition government in Britain, said a Foreign Office statement.