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US, Pakistan Need to Improve Ties, Says Senator Kerry


U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (L) stands with Pakistan's Interior Minister Rahman Malik before meeting Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani at the prime minister's residence May 16, 2011. Kerry will push Pakistani leaders on Monday to explain how Osama bin L

U.S. Senator John Kerry is calling for the United States and Pakistan to improve ties that were further strained following a U.S. military operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Kerry, the most senior U.S. official to visit Pakistan since the May 2 raid, said Monday the two countries are "strategic partners" in the fight against terrorism.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad on Monday, after holding talks with Pakistan's army chief the day before.

Prime Minister Gilani warned last week that any future unilateral actions such as the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden would carry serious consequences. U.S. officials, meanwhile, questioned how the al-Qaida leader was able to hide out in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad without being detected.

After Monday's talks, Kerry said he and Pakistani leaders have agreed on a series of steps to improve U.S.-Pakistan relations, while announcing that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon be visiting Pakistan. But the senator also warned that there are members of the U.S. Congress who question whether those relations can be put back together.

While visiting neighboring Afghanistan, Kerry said some in Congress have "deep reservations" about Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism and are calling for a "shift" in the U.S. aid program for the country.

Pakistani military officials said Monday that the country's army chief told Kerry that his soldiers have "intense feelings" concerning the raid on the Pakistani city of Abbottabad by special U.S. forces that killed bin Laden.

Pakistan's leaders were not told of plans for the raid in advance out of concerns that bin Laden might be tipped off.

U.S. President Barack Obama is among those who say the al-Qaida leader must have had some sort of support network in Pakistan that allowed him to live undetected in Abbottabad for years.

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