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In sign of thaw, NATO invites Pakistan to summit in Chicago

ISLAMABAD — NATO on Tuesday announced that Pakistan would be invited to the alliance's Chicago summit on the future of Afghanistan this weekend, following signs from Pakistani authorities that they would end their nearly six-month blockade on Afghanistan-bound NATO supply routes through their country.

President Asif Ali Zardari's spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh-Rasmussen phoned the Pakistani leader Tuesday to extend the invitation.

Earlier this week, the alliance had suggested that Pakistan's participation in the gathering on Sunday and Monday would not be possible if the supply routes remained closed. However, Babar insisted that the invitation was unconditional and not linked to the reopening of the supply routes.

The reopening of the supply routes was discussed Friday at a meeting of the Pakistani Cabinet's Defense Committee, a body that includes senior civilian and military leaders. However, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira announced late Tuesday that the committee had not reached a decision and would meet again at a later date to continue talks.

Ties between the U.S. and Pakistan have been largely on hold since Nov. 26, when errant U.S. airstrikes along the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

French shift on Afghan pullout pledge

New French President Francois Hollande has already been forced by the unforgiving calculus of military logistics to backtrack on his campaign promise to pull all French forces out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. Hollande initially pledged to withdraw by year's end all the 3,400 French military personnel deployed in Afghanistan and nearby countries in support of NATO's International Security Assistance Force. But he refined that later to say he would pull out only combatants. NATO's carefully negotiated timetable calls for a staged pullout through 2014. The new French timetable is likely to be a subject of discussion when Hollande meets President Obama for the first time at breakfast Friday at the White House, Hollande's aides said.

Washington Post

In sign of thaw, NATO invites Pakistan to summit in Chicago 05/15/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 12:14am]
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