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Obama expresses 'condolences' to Pakistan President Zardari in bid to ease tension

That Obama expressed 'condolences' in a phone call to Pakistan President Zardari, was a crucial move for US-Pakistan relations, but it doesn't mean business will be back to normal, say analysts. 

Members of the Azad Welfare Society burn a replica U.S. flag during a rally to condemn NATO airstrikes on Pakistani troops, Sunday, Dec. 4, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Pakistan is refusing to participate in the U.S. investigation of last week's NATO airstrikes along the Afghanistan border that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Anjum Naveed/AP

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President Obama telephoned Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari last night to convey his condolences over a cross-border NATO strike last week that sparked a diplomatic crisis, in the strongest gesture of reconciliation by the US following that attack. 

The move, which comes as a major international conference on the future of Afghanistan gets underway in Bonn, Germany despite a Pakistan boycott, is being “seen as a good sign that the US is trying to mend fences at a time when both the Pakistani civilians and military are unhappy with the US,” says a senior Pakistani official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Indeed, such an effort was crucial to relations. Retired General Talat Masood, a security analyst, says the call was the least the US could have done, “I think they were expecting a phone call and at least condolence if not an apology.” 

Still, it’s unlikely that Pakistan’s government will revert to business as usual. Pakistani officials are now seeking to rewrite the rules-of-engagement with NATO, according to Pakistan’s Express Tribune. “It is not possible to continue cooperation under the existing arrangements following the NATO attack,” a senior military official told the paper. 

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