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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

US-Pakistan rift opens door for Russia

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The Bush administration's recent rift with the regime of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is providing an opening for Russia.

While the U.S.-Pakistani relationship on the war on terror remains strong, the country's burgeoning energy needs have forced Islamabad to look to regional neighbors for support.

On Fri. Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told Russian journalists in Islamabad that the two counties need to upgrade cooperation in the areas of education, science and technology, energy, defense, trade and investment for mutual benefit.

Aziz stressed that Pakistan was interested in upgrading its contacts with Russia as the nation was trying to increase its capacity in energy sector by importing natural gas, and that the two countries could expand their cooperation in this field, particularly in the fields of natural gas and oil, electricity and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

In a move certain to unsettle both Delhi and Washington, the Russian journal Vremiia Novostii reported that Aziz has asked Russia to supply nuclear reactors, commenting, "Why not sell Russian nuclear reactors for our nuclear power plants? In the military area we have a successful record of purchasing Mi-17 helicopters."

Reiterating themes from Washington, Aziz said that his country stalwartly opposes terrorism in all its forms, adding that Pakistan regards its role in the war against terrorism as in the best national interest.

In a further signal that Islamabad might be moving further away from Washington on the issue of terrorism towards a Eurasian solution, Aziz said that Pakistan and Russia could cooperate in security matters as well as for fighting terrorism.
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