March 24th, 2010
06:49 PM ET

Civil nuclear issue on Pakistan's agenda as talks with U.S. begin

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is promising "a new day" in U.S.-Pakistan relations and new efforts to move beyond previous mistrust and misunderstandings. And Pakistan is hoping improved relations will generate new American help with civilian nuclear power.

Clinton started two days of high-level talks with Pakistani leaders Wednesday morning at the State Department. She was joined by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and officials from both countries, including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

The meeting, formally known as the United States-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, is the latest recognition of Pakistan's importance to the United States in the fight against extremism.

"We know that in recent years misperceptions and mistrust have grown between our countries, on both sides of the relationship. Foreign Minister Qureshi and I have worked hard to overcome that," Clinton said at the opening event of two days of meetings.

She spoke in the ornate Benjamin Franklin room on the eighth floor of the State Department building. She and Qureshi sat at the head of a large U-shaped table, flanked by dozens of officials and aides from both countries.

"I am aware some skepticism remains. So I want to say a word directly to the people of Pakistan," Clinton said. "Our countries have had our misunderstandings and disagreements in the past and there are sure to be more disagreements in the future, as there are sure to be between any friends or, frankly, between any family members. But this is a new day - for the past year the Obama administration has shown in our words and our deeds a different approach and a different attitude toward Pakistan."

One disagreement that was not directly addressed was the U.S. refusal to formally recognize Pakistan as a nuclear-weapon power. Pakistan's leaders also want to reach an agreement with the United States on civil nuclear development - similar to what the United States already has with India - to help Pakistan develop new nuclear power plants to ease its electricity shortage.

- From Charley Keyes, CNN Senior Producer

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