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Manmohan-Gilani meeting good for region: US

By The Assam Tribune

WASHINGTON, April 29 (IANS) - The United States has expressed support for the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Thimphu on the sidelines of SAARC summit, saying that' s "good for the region".

"We always think that when leaders of countries, particularly countries with the unique history of India and Pakistan, anytime they can get together for high-level constructive dialogue, that is good for the region and we support it," a State Department spokesman said Wednesday.

"We have encouraged India and Pakistan that they need to restore a high-level dialogue that they have had in the not-too-distant past," spokesman Philip J Crowley told reporters when asked what role the US had played in bringing about the Singh-Gilani meeting.

"There have been some significant steps by both countries to restore dialogue both at the leader level and at other levels, and we certainly encourage that," he added.

The US has its own strategic dialogue with both India and Pakistan, Crowley said, noting, "We are planning for the next round of discussions with India in the next few weeks."

Asked if President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had relayed a common message to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan during bilateral meetings on the sidelines of Nuclear Security Summit, he said the US had encouraged the leaders to restore direct dialogue.

"We have encouraged the leaders of Pakistan and India to restore direct dialogue that has been characteristic of the relationship between those two countries within the last few years, and we're encouraged that they are taking steps to do that," Crowley said.

Asked how the US saw SAARC nations' role in Afghanistan, he said Washington considered them important and encouraged them. "This is one of a number of important structures that you have across the broader Asia region."

"We think they're important. We encourage them," he said pointing to the presence of Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake's appearance at the SAARC as an observer.

Clinton "is committed to strengthen the United States ties to other structures like ASEAN. This is an indication of our ongoing and deepening commitment to the region," Crowley said.

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