|Rezaul H Laskar,
Islamabad, Apr 27 - Pakistan's future participation in the US-led war on terrorism hinges on bridging the trust deficit between the two countries and resolving differences on contentious issues like American drone attacks, President Asif Ali Zardari said today.
Weeks after Pakistan's parliament endorsed guidelines for resetting the relationship with America, Zardari told visiting US Special Envoy Marc Grossman that there was a need to evolve a mechanism for counter-terrorism cooperation between the two sides.
"Bridging the trust deficit holds the key to Pakistan rejoining the counter-terrorism cooperation," Zardari said.
Grossman held meetings with the country's top civilian leadership after a meeting of the Core Group of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US.
Zardari told the US envoy that Pakistan had "always maintained that drone attacks were highly counter-productive in the war against militants as it inflamed public sentiments due to civilian casualties".
Both sides should consider setting up a mechanism to find "mutually acceptable alternatives" to drone strikes, he said.
Pakistan also wants an "early resolution" of pending reimbursements of expenses on the war on terror from the US Coalition Support Fund, Zardari said.
These reimbursements are a "sticking point in the relationship which needed to be addressed urgently", he said.
Pakistan wants to re-engage with the US at all levels in light of recent parliamentary review of bilateral relations, Zardari said.
Pakistan is committed to "providing assistance to the international presence in Afghanistan" but the world community should "share the financial and economic cost of services and goods involved in the process", the President said.
Zardari further sought more cooperation from the US in areas like energy generation, infrastructure development, water management and social and human development.
Relations between Pakistan and the US were hit by a series of crises last year, including the killing of Osama bin Laden by American commandoes on Pakistani soil and a cross-border air strike by NATO forces in Afghanistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Following the NATO attack, the government shut supply routes to Afghanistan and ordered a parliamentary review of ties with the US and effectively halted cooperation in the war on terror.
Zardari told Grossman that his government had begun the "inter-agency consultation process" and developed broad parameters for an agreement on the transportation of supplies to ISAF and NATO forces through Pakistan.
He contended that Pakistan and the US shared convergence of interests in key areas, including the goals of stability in Afghanistan and the complete defeat of Al Qaeda.
Pakistan's re-engagement with the US will be based on transparency and Washington should help Islamabad in "reaching closure" on last year's cross-border NATO air strike.
Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam too were present during Zardari's meeting with Grossman.
In a separate meeting with Grossman, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani discussed cooperation in the war on terror in accordance with the guidelines adopted by parliament, which spell out "new terms of engagement" with the US.
Pakistan, Gilani said, wanted a relationship with the US based on mutual respect and mutual interest. PTI