Nirupama Subramanian

"Nuclear deal with India signed in special circumstances"

ISLAMABAD: United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice held talks here on Tuesday with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on increased co-operation between the two countries and Afghanistan in the "war on terror."

Ms. Rice's visit comes at a time of heightened conflict in Afghanistan that Kabul blames on its eastern neighbour.

At a restricted joint press briefing with Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Ms. Rice said the talks were "inconclusive" and would continue over dinner. But she praised Pakistan's role in the war on terror.

She said the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan was "enduring" and would continue for "years and years."

Ms. Rice said the Bush administration remained committed to the development of Pakistan, and said the two countries were engaged in "fruitful discussions" on how "to meet the country's energy needs, to give them reliable, safe and clean energy for economic development."

She was referring to the energy dialogue between the two countries going on in Washington.

Though Ms. Rice declined to commit herself on co-operation with Pakistan on civil nuclear energy, she said the civilian nuclear deal with India being discussed by U.S. Congress was signed "in special circumstances."

She said she had conveyed to General Musharraf that the world attached great importance to the Pakistan Government holding free and fair elections next year.