US envoy tries to patch up ties with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The United States is committed to improving its relationship with Pakistan, despite tensions over the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor, the U.S. ambassador told a skeptical audience Monday.

In his first major public speech since the Jan. 27 shootings, Cameron Munter spoke of a “renewal” in Pakistani-U.S. relations and noted America’s many humanitarian programs in the country.

Pakistan’s cooperation is considered key to stabilizing Afghanistan.

Munter’s comments came as Pakistan’s spy chief visited the U.S., where he was to meet with the head of the CIA.

“It remains vital to us both to see progress in Pakistan and the region, in the interest of peace, stability and prosperity of Pakistan and its neighbors,” Munter said to academics and former diplomats at a think tank in the capital, Islamabad.

He later said he wanted to concentrate on “opportunities in the future, not on problems of the past.”

The audience peppered him with questions and comments that revealed a deep suspicion of U.S. motives.

One man requested that Munter tell U.S. officials to stop American missile strikes on militant targets on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border. Some questioned whether the U.S. would ever treat Pakistan on par with its archrival India. Others suggested that the U.S. tries to micromanage Pakistani affairs.

Munter welcomed the criticism, saying he’d rather Pakistanis be blunt and honest than stay silent.

On Monday a Pakistani intelligence official confirmed that ISI chief Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha had arrived in the U.S. for talks with American officials. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.