Pakistan PM leaves for France after bin Laden killing
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani flew to France Tuesday on a mission to boost bilateral ties, leaving behind a diplomatic storm following Osama bin Laden's killing by US forces.
Gilani told AFP in an interview on Monday that the planned visit to Paris would go ahead in order to raise the level of diplomatic engagement between the two countries and improve economic cooperation with the European nation.
"France is an extremely important country... in the EU, it's an important country of G8... therefore we really want to improve our relationship... we want to enhance them at the summit level at the level of ministers," said Gilani.
The prime minister said he would travel with a business representative who would sign an agreement for enhanced economic cooperation and trade with his counterpart, though he gave no further details of the deal.
He said summit relations would be raised from the level of foreign secretaries to foreign ministers.
"We want to have a broader relationship with France. Previously secretaries of both countries would meet at that (summit) level, so we want to enhance it to the level of foreign ministers," he said in an interview on the day it was announced US operatives had killed bin Laden in an independent operation 30 miles from Islamabad.
The killing of Al Qaeda's number one in a $1 million villa in a garrison city within easy reach of the capital has fuelled suspicion of the Pakistani military's collusion with extremists.
The political establishment insist they knew nothing of bin Laden's whereabouts, or of the US raid that killed him on Monday, though Gilani said it was a "great victory" in the counterterror fight.
© 2011 AFP