WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2011 — Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan, today for discussions White House officials said are focused on U.S. relations with that country and joint efforts toward regional peace and stability.
“Vice President Biden will also meet with members of Pakistan’s military leadership to discuss our shared efforts to fight terrorism and extremism,” a White House official said.
Biden already has met with Pakistani President Asif ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, army chief of staff, maintaining the rapid pace he set during his visit to Afghanistan over the last two days.
In a joint news conference with Biden, Gilani said Pakistan’s friendship and partnership with the United States “is based on shared values,” and he added that he looks forward to a mutually beneficial relationship with the United States.
Biden said the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is vital to the interests of both countries and that he hopes to clear up misconceptions about U.S. intentions toward Pakistan.
America is not undertaking a “war on Pakistan” in fighting al-Qaida, he said, stressing that violent extremists pose a threat to both nations, noting that terrorists have found refuge in some of the most-remote parts of Pakistan.
While some critics accuse the United States of violating Pakistan’s sovereignty in its pursuit of al-Qaida, Biden said, it is the extremists who violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and corrupt its good name.
“Our goal is to work with your leaders and restore and strengthen sovereignty in those areas of your country where extremists have violated it,” he said.
Biden said no country offers greater freedom of worship than the United States, which is home to some of the world’s largest mosques.
“We are not enemies of Islam, and we embrace those who practice that great religion in our country,” Biden said.
Reiterating that a close partnership is in both countries’ vital interests, Biden said he wants to dispel fears the United States ultimately would abandon Pakistan. He condemned what he called the “cold-blooded” Jan. 4 assassination of Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer, offering condolences on behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people.
“There is no justification for such senseless acts,” Biden said. At the U.S. embassy earlier in the day, officials said, the vice president called Amna Taseer, the widow of the slain governor, to express condolences on behalf of himself, the president and the American people.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)