Biden Focuses on Regional Peace, Stability in Pakistan Visit

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)

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