Biden says US not the enemy of Islam
Islamabad - US Vice President Joe Biden delivered a bold message of support for key anti-terror ally Pakistan during a trip to Islamabad on Wednesday, telling the country that America is "not the enemy of Islam".
After talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani he described as "extremely useful", Biden addressed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, fanned by the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a covert US drone campaign on its border.
"There are even some sections in Pakistani society and elsewhere that suggest American disrespects Islam and its followers," Biden told a joint press conference at the prime minister's residence.
"We are not the enemies of Islam and we embrace those who practise that great religion in all our country," he added.
Biden said that Taliban and al-Qaeda elements living in the remote lawless areas of the country's northwest were a threat to Pakistan.
"A close partnership between Pakistan and its people is in the vital self interest of the United States of American and, I would argue... in the vital self interest of Pakistan as well," he told reporters.
The United States wants Pakistan's military to do more to combat extremist on its border and to launch a ground offensive in the border region of North Waziristan, where it says key Taliban leaders reside.
Biden delivered his message before leaving for a key meeting with army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
"My hope is God willing, if I'm able to stand here next year with you that we're able to point to greater progress and greater resolve and greater prosperity for your people and mine," Biden said, concluding his speech.
Earlier Biden referenced the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot dead by his bodyguard last week over his outspoken opposition to the country's strict blasphemy laws.
The apparent killer, who has confessed, has been hailed a hero by religious conservatives in the country and rallies have been held in his honour.
"Societies that applaud such actions end up being consumed by those actions," said Biden, offering his condolences over the death.
Gilani gave a brief statement ahead of Biden's speech, applauding "very fruitful discussions" with the US vice-president.