Pakistan welcomes US aid package

WASHINGTON: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed a giant US aid package for his country, voicing hope that alleviating poverty would erode support for extremism.

Congress on Wednesday gave the final go-ahead for a five-year, 7.5-billion-dollar package to build schools, roads and democratic institutions in the Islamic nuclear power, which re-established civilian rule last year.

Qureshi, who is holding talks in Washington next week, on Friday voiced appreciation for the package, acknowledging that the United States was allocating the money despite a struggling economy at home.

"This is an expression of commitment to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan because better education, better health, improvement in physical infrastructure will help the people of Pakistan," he told National Public Radio.

"The Taliban and the extremists have been extracting out of poverty and the misery of people in those areas. Obviously, when they're more enlightened and they're more educated, then they would not join them."

Qureshi did not deny that many Pakistanis felt bitterness toward the United States, which worked with Pakistan to force the Soviets out of neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s but then eased its involvement.

"You abandoned us," he said.

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders say that the aid package is proof of a new US commitment to Pakistan and its people's needs.

Obama has made fighting Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan a top priority of his young presidency.