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Pakistan orders end to U.S. use of drones

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he'd told President Obama on Wednesday that American drone strikes in his country need to end.

The remarks were made as the two leaders met in person for more than two hours in high-level talks aimed at beginning to mend a historically troubled relationship.

Sharif, who described the Oval Office talks as “cordial and comprehensive,” said Pakistan and the United States have agreed to cooperate further on counterterrorism measures, but he nevertheless said he'd raised the issue of drone strikes with Obama, “emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.”

His visit occurred a day after the White House defended the drone program as it disputed claims by two human rights groups that its targeted-killing program violates international law and often has killed civilians, including a grandmother in Pakistan.

Obama didn't mention the controversial targeted-killing program, but he said leaders had talked about the need to work together to curb terrorism and extremism — in ways that “respect Pakistan's sovereignty” and address both countries' concerns.

“I'm optimistic that we can continue to make important strides in moving forward,” the president said, noting that terrorist attacks have affected both countries. “It's a challenge. It's not easy, but we committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries that it can be a source of strength.”

Obama said the United States considered Pakistan “a very important strategic partner” and thinks “that if Pakistan is secure and peaceful and prosperous, that's not only good for Pakistan, it's good for the region, and it's good for the world.”

The president said the two had “spent a lot of time” talking about Pakistan's economy and that the United States would look to boost trade opportunities with the country.

They also discussed Afghanistan, and Obama said he'd pledged to “fully brief” Sharif on the Afghan elections and “long-term strategy for stability in the region.” Sharif said Pakistan is committed to a “peaceful and stable Afghanistan.”

The president said he was encouraged by Sharif's recent meeting with the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.

“I think he is taking a very wise path and exploring how the tension between India and Pakistan could be reduced,” Obama said.

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