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At tense time for US-Pakistan ties, Hillary Clinton swings velvet hammer

In Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took care to say senior leaders there didn't know Osama bin Laden was hiding near Islamabad. But she also pushed hard for Pakistan to hunt down certain Islamist extremists.

By Staff writer / May 27, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses a news conference with Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff at the US embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan on Friday, May 27. Clinton said that relations between the United States and Pakistan had reached a turning point after the killing of Osama bin Laden and Islamabad must make 'decisive steps' in the days ahead to fight terrorism.

B.K. Bangash/AP

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Washington

In an attempt to pull US-Pakistan relations out of a downward spiral, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is telling Pakistani officials the steps they must take soon – including chasing down specific Islamist extremists long thought to enjoy the protection of the country’s intelligence services.

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Short of such action, Pakistan risks seeing the US undertake another secret operation on its soil like the May 1 raid that targeted Al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden, says President Obama. The US would not hesitate to repeat such unilateral action if it learned that “active plans” for terrorist acts were going unchecked, Mr. Obama told the BBC this week.

Secretary Clinton made a surprise stop in Islamabad Friday at the end of a week-long European trip. She pointedly said there is no evidence that anyone at the highest levels of the Pakistani government knew Mr. bin Laden was living outside Islamabad, in Abbottabad. She also underscored the “close cooperation” between the US and Pakistan over the past decade that she said has resulted in the killing or capture of many “terrorists” and “violent extremists.”

But she also said the two countries “have reached a turning point.” The US would be looking to Pakistan “to take decisive steps in the days ahead” to indicate that it understands the stakes for both countries, she said.

“We both recognize there is still much more work required, and it is urgent,” Clinton said in remarks to journalists after meeting with the top Pakistani leadership.

How Pakistan responds to Clinton’s call to action remains to be seen. But on Thursday the Pakistani government revealed that it has told the US to reduce the number of its military personnel in the country.

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