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Pakistan's prime minister Sharif urges Obama to end drone strikes

Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif has called for an end to US drone strikes in Pakistan during a meeting with US President Obama. Meanwhile, both leaders pledged to cooperate on security issues that have strained ties.

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Sharif calls for end to US drone strikes

After meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters, "I ... brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.”

Washington's use of armed drones to attack suspected militants in Pakistan has long been controversial as the unmanned aircraft have been blamed for also killing large numbers of civilians.

Obama did not address the US drone program directly in his remarks after meeting with Sharif but acknowledged tensions and "misunderstandings" between the two countries.

"We committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries, this can be a source of strength for us working together," Obama said.

On Tuesday, the human rights organization Amnesty International accused the US of carrying out unlawful killings in drone attacks in Pakistan.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called it "a hard fact of war" that US strikes sometimes result in civilian casualties but said drone strikes do so far less than conventional attacks.

New beginnings?

Beyond drones, the two leaders also discussed the winding down of the US-led war
in Afghanistan and the longstanding tensions between India and Pakistan.

Sharif's election in June marked Pakistan's first civilian transfer of power after the completion of a full term by a democratically-elected government. He is the first Pakistani leader to visit the White House in five years.

"To see a peaceful transition of one democratically elected government to another was an enormous milestone for Pakistan," Obama said.

Most of the more than $1 billion in US security aid to Pakistan is intended to bolster the ability of its military to counter militants in semi-autonomous tribal areas.

hc/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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