M A I N   N E W S

Obama calls up PM, discusses Af-Pak
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1
Just a week after the leaders met in Washington, US President Barack Obama telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning to discuss his Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy and the forthcoming UN summit on climate change to be held in Copenhagen.

In a brief conversation, the leaders discussed further steps that could be taken to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Obama’s telephonic call to the PM came amid reports that he would soon announce “surge” of thousands of US troops to take on the Taliban in Afghanistan. The reports suggested that Obama proposed to commit around 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

He is reportedly expected to consult other major world leaders over the coming days on his new Afghanistan strategy.

The situation in Pakistan is also said to have figured during the conversation. The US President is worried over the fast deteriorating security situation in Pakistan and has made known his dissatisfaction to the Pakistani leadership over the selective approach being adopted by Islamabad in fighting terrorist groups.

Just yesterday, at a press conference here, US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer said India and the USA were determined to defeat the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). The US envoy also emphasised that Pakistan must effectively prosecute the seven Mumbai suspects, adding they would hopefully be convicted for killing scores of Indian and six Americans. Sources said Obama shared with the PM his views on the climate change summit. Manmohan Singh told the US leader that India would play a constructive role in the negotiations and it looked forward to a successful outcome at the summit.

India has been under pressure from top world leaders to play the role of a “deal-maker” at the UN meet. Obama’s phone call to the PM has only strengthened speculation over the mounting pressure on India ahead of the Copenhagen summit.

Only last week, Obama and the PM had held detailed talks on the climate change summit that included evolving a consensus at the UN meet. Two days ago, the PM had met French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Trinidad and Tobago. Both these leaders underlined the need for India to join the ongoing negotiations for substantive outcome at the summit.

Until now, sources had been saying that the PM had no plan to visit Copenhagen for the summit. But the latest is that Manmohan Singh is reconsidering his decision in the backdrop of the fact that the summit is of utmost importance to India.

Both Obama and the French President have asked Manmohan Singh to attend the summit at which India is expected to strongly pitch in for legally binding substantive outcome to deal with the challenge posed to the world.

Meanwhile, the PM called on President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and briefed her on his recent visit to the USA and Port of Spain for the CHOGM Summit. They also discussed matters pertaining to internal security and the ongoing session of Parliament.




Holds video conference with Karzai

Kabul, December 1
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Barack Obama discussed the new US policy for Afghanistan during an hour-long video conference call today morning, a spokesman for the presidential palace said.

The video conference came ahead of Obama's planned speech tonite at the US Military Academy West Point, N Y, where he will outline a new US war plan and dispatch between 30,000 and 35,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Karzai's office says the two leaders discussed in detail the security, political, military and economic aspects of the strategy.

The call was one of several Obama was making to world leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari, the president of neighbouring Pakistan.

Obama's war escalation includes sending more American forces into Afghanistan in a graduated deployment over the next year. They will join the 71,000 US troops already on the ground. Obama's new war strategy also includes renewed focus on training Afghan forces to take over the fight and allow the Americans to leave.

Obama is also expected to explain why he believes the US must continue to fight more than eight years after the war was started following the September 11 attacks by al-Qaida terrorists based in Afghanistan. He will emphasise that Afghan security forces need more time, more schooling and more US combat backup to be up to the job on their own, and he will make tougher demands on the governments of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. — AP



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