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Obama's restrictions on drone program welcomed in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Barack Obama's commitment to scaling back the use of unmanned aircraft to kill suspected terrorists could pave the way for improved relations between the United States and Pakistan, analysts and political leaders said Friday.

But the government here maintained its insistence that the drone campaign does more harm than good and should be shut down completely.

Obama's decision to continue using targeted killings abroad while imposing restrictions that could significantly reduce the frequency of drone strikes comes at a particularly sensitive time for Islamabad, as it prepares for a new government led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Since winning a May 11 election, Sharif and his aides have been careful in their remarks, declaring opposition to the drone campaign — a tactic deeply unpopular in Pakistan — without appearing excessively confrontational to Washington, which Islamabad relies on for billions of dollars in military and economic aid.

On Friday, one of Sharif's advisers, Sen. Tariq Azeem, called the policy shift outlined by Obama in a major speech Thursday "a positive sign."

The United States has relied heavily on its drone campaign to take out al-Qaida and Taliban leaders holed up in Pakistan's tribal regions, a swath of rugged territory along the Afghan border that Islamabad has never been able to fully control.

Obama's restrictions on drone program welcomed in Pakistan 05/24/13 [Last modified: Saturday, May 25, 2013 1:23am]
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