Pakistan prime minister visits White House

July 28, 2008 7:27:29 AM PDT
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's White House visit Monday comes amid increased calls by senior U.S. officials for Pakistan to stop militants from staging cross-border attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.The prime minister may have his own issues to raise in his talks with President Bush: Gilani visits Washington at a tense moment in ties between the countries.

Officials and state media said that missiles hit a religious school in a village just inside Pakistan's border with Afghanistan on Monday, killing six people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the incident followed a series of strikes apparently by U.S. aircraft in recent months against militant leaders holed up in Pakistan's tribal belt.

White House press secretary Dana Perino had no comment on the origin or outcome of the strike. A U.S. airstrike last month killed 11 Pakistani border troops.

Many in Washington have expressed frustration with the new Pakistani government's pursuit of peace deals with tribes along the lawless Pakistani-Afghan border. Critics say the deals have removed military pressure from the region and allowed terrorists to regroup and stage attacks on U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan.

Perino said the anti-terror fight would be the chief topic at the Bush-Gilani meeting later Monday, and she defended Pakistan's efforts. She suggested the White House supports the government's moves to "establish some form of communications" with those in the border areas, while saying they are acting aggressively on the military front.

"The president believes that Pakistan, including Prime Minister Gilani, recognize that the terrorists are a threat to the Pakistanis themselves - not just to the United States or others," she said. "Does the president think they are doing enough? I think the president thinks we all need to be doing more."

Pakistan has resisted suggestions that U.S. or other foreign troops should be allowed into the remote region to combat militants.

The new Pakistani government won elections in February against the party of President Pervez Musharraf, a staunch U.S. ally and former army chief. Pakistan officials say they are working to strike agreements that would require the tribes to give up their weapons, withdraw support for foreign fighters and end attacks across the border.

U.S. and Afghan officials say Taliban fighters are sheltering in Pakistan. Militants based in Pakistani tribal areas, where Osama bin Laden and his top aide are believed to be hiding, have said they are sending fighters to Afghanistan.

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