US Senate okays $7.5 bn aid for Pakistan

Underscoring Islamabad's perceived role in the war in Afghanistan and the broader fight against international terrorism Obama urged "sustained and expanded" support for Pakistan at an international summit on Thursday.

Obama, seated next to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, told the meeting of the 26-member Friends of Democratic Pakistan that the US Senate vote for billions of dollars in aid for Islamabad was proof of US support.

"We also face a common threat. The violent extremists within Pakistan pose a threat to the region, to the United States, and to the world. Above all, they threaten the security of the Pakistani people," Obama told the summit, which he chaired with Zardari and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"We believe that hope can triumph over fear, and that adversity can be replaced by opportunity," Obama insisted at the meeting held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

"Success will require a sustained and expanded commitment from the international community," he said at a New York hotel, according to prepared remarks released by the White House.

The Senate's unanimous approval set the stage for action in the House of Representatives, where the measure could be introduced as early as Friday with a vote expected soon thereafter that would send it to Obama to sign into law.

Richard Holbrooke, the president's special envoy to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, hailed the vote as "a very important step forward" for sometimes tense relations between the US and Pakistan.

Democratic Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a lead author of the bill, said it would help "forge a new long-term relationship between the people of America and Pakistan".

Holbrooke said the Pakistanis are coming to terms with the need to defeat the extremists sheltering along its unruly border area. There seems to be a growing recognition that the Taliban and other miscreants, to use the Pakistanis' own word for this, are a threat to the entire country, he said.

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