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NATO Invites Pakistan to Chicago Summit

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will be invited to Chicago, NATO says

Tuesday, May 15, 2012  |  Updated 8:15 AM CDT
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Bilawal Bhutto (R) follows his father President Zardari of Pakistan from Downing Street after talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on July 1, 2011 in London, England. Mr Zardari is in London on a two day visit to discuss enhancing UK-Pakistan partnership in trade and investment.

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NATO will invite Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to the alliance's summit in Chicago, after the country's foreign minister proposed reopening its Afghan border to NATO military supplies, officials said Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Pakistan was being invited to the May 20-21 summit along with a number of other non-NATO nations. These include countries that contribute to the NATO-led force, nations from the region, as well as Japan and several international organizations. About 60 countries and organizations are expected to be represented.

"This meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan and to its future," Lungescu said. "Pakistan has an important role to play in that future."

The supply route through Pakistan has been closed for nearly six months in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops. This forced NATO to reorient its entire logistics chain to more expensive routes across Russia and Central Asia.

The routes through Pakistan are seen as vital as NATO begins to pull out of Afghanistan.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Monday that Islamabad had made the right decision to close the border but the situation could now change.

"It was important to make a point. Pakistan has made a point and now we can move on," Khar said at a news conference in Islamabad when asked whether she believed Pakistan should reopen the supply route.

But officials noted that despite the positive signals, the supply routes have not yet been restored. A NATO diplomat speaking on usual condition of anonymity said the invitation to Zardari was meant as an inducement to the government in Islamabad to reopen the borders.

In Kabul, Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister Jawed Ludin said there are "some positive signs from Pakistan."

"It may be resolved today or tomorrow, but as it stands, it's still unresolved," Ludin told reporters on Tuesday.

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