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Clinton eyes better US-Pakistani cooperation

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed hope Sunday that Pakistan’s recent reopening of NATO supply lines into Afghanistan might lead to a broader rapprochement in U.S.-Pakistani relations after a difficult period for the reluctant allies.

After attending a 70-nation Afghan aid conference in Tokyo, Clinton met privately with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to discuss reviving the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, which has suffered a series of debilitating crises over the last year-and-a-half but is still seen as critical for the stability of South Asia.

It was their first meeting since Clinton’s apology last week for the November killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO, a move that led to the end of Pakistan’s seven-month blockade of the supply routes.

“We are both encouraged that we’ve been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so we can focus on the many challenges ahead of us,” Clinton told reporters. “We want to use the positive momentum generated by our recent agreement to take tangible steps on our many shared, core interests.”

The most important of these, Clinton said, was fighting militant groups. They have used Pakistan as a rear base to attack American troops and jeopardize the future of Afghanistan.

She and Khar “focused on the necessity of defeating the terror networks that threat the stability of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the interests of the United States,” Clinton said.

Last week’s accord helped repair ties that have been torn over everything from a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis to the unilateral U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound. The November incident was the deadliest among the allies in the decade-long fight against al-Qaida and other extremist groups along the Afghan-Pakistani frontier.

Pakistan’s reaction in closing the border cost the U.S. at least $700 million, as it rerouted supplies across more expensive northern routes. The final bill may have been significantly greater.

Meanwhile, thousands of hardline Islamists streamed toward Pakistan’s capital in a massive convoy of vehicles Sunday to protest the government’s decision to allow the U.S. and other NATO countries to resume shipping troop supplies through the country to Afghanistan.

The demonstration, which started in the eastern city of Lahore, was organized by the Difah-e-Pakistan Council — Defense of Pakistan Council — a group of politicians and religious leaders who have been the most vocal opponents of the supply line.

6 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A bomb in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed six NATO service members, on a day where a total of 29 people died from roadside bombs and insurgent attacks.

NATO said the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device but provided no further details about the attack and did not identify the dead service members. The statement said NATO’s policy is to allow “national authorities” to give details about the soldiers.

A surge in Afghan and coalition forces during the past two years routed Taliban fighters from many of their strongholds in the south, but the insurgents have stepped up their attacks this summer to take back key areas.

The service members’ deaths were the latest on Sunday caused by bombs planted by insurgents along roadsides, paths or mountain tracks.

In addition to the six NATO deaths, bombs and attacks killed 16 Afghan civilians, five policemen and two members of the U.S.-led coalition in southern Afghanistan, Afghan and NATO authorities said.

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