South Asia

US Senator John Kerry defends Pakistan Bin Laden raid

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Media captionJohn Kerry said the US and Pakistan were "strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism"

US Senator John Kerry, on a visit to Pakistan, has publicly defended the raid by US special forces that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Mr Kerry said secrecy surrounding the raid had been crucial and did not reflect mistrust of Pakistan's leaders.

Pakistan is angry that it was not told in advance about the 2 May raid and that its sovereignty was violated.

Mr Kerry said it was now important to put relations between the two countries back on track.

In a televised address, Mr Kerry said that even Gen David Petraeus, the US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, had only learned about the operation shortly before it took place.

'Obama's discipline'

"I was informed by [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton through a call a few hours after the operation," Mr Kerry said.

"It was not a matter of trust but imperative of operational security. I respect the discipline that President [Barack] Obama showed in choosing this course and I ask all Pakistanis to understand that and to respect that.

"My goal in coming here is to talk [about] how we manage this important relationship. I am not here to apologise for what I consider a triumph against terrorism."

Mr Kerry said he had held "constructive conversations" with Pakistani leaders but reiterated "grave concerns" over the presence of Bin Laden in the town of Abbottabad.

He warned that US-Pakistani relations were at a critical point and said some members of US Congress were not confident that they could be fixed.

"The make or break is real. There are, as we know, many members of Congress who aren't confident that it can be patched back together again. And that is why actions but not words are going to be critical to earning their votes."

He added: "We have agreed on a specific series of steps that will be implemented immediately in order to get the relationship on track. That's actions, not words."

Mr Kerry said the two sides had agreed a number of steps to rebuild trust, but did not specify what those steps would be other than Pakistan had agreed to return the fuselage of a US helicopter that was damaged in the raid.

A joint statement issued after the talks said it had been agreed that the two countries would work together in any future actions against "high-value targets" in Pakistan.

Senator Kerry, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said that Mrs Clinton planned to visit Pakistan soon.

The raid by US Navy Seals strained already tense ties between the US and Pakistan. Washington has expressed concern that the al-Qaeda chief was able to live for years only a short distance from a prestigious military training academy. Islamabad, stung by the criticism, insists that it is bearing the brunt of the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Pakistan is a key ally of the US in the battle against Islamist extremism, and Washington has sent billions of dollars in aid to Islamabad. Critics in Washington have said that recent events mean this aid should be reviewed.

Analysts say that although many in the US Congress would like to cut aid to Pakistan, the US still needs supply routes through the country to its forces in Afghanistan, as well as the use of Pakistani airspace.

Mr Kerry is the first high-level US envoy to visit Pakistan since the killing of Bin Laden.

On Saturday, Pakistan's parliament condemned the Bin Laden raid and called for an end to unilateral action within its borders, including attacks on suspected militants by US drones.

It said logistical support for Nato troops in Afghanistan could be withdrawn if the strikes continued.

One senior Pakistani official said there remained a "difference of opinion" between the countries, "but we'll continue our co-operation with the world as well as the United States".