Obama hails Pakistan for elections, pledges equal partnership

WASHINGTON Sun May 12, 2013 2:37pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks to honor the 2013 National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS award winners at the White House in Washington May 11, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks to honor the 2013 National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS award winners at the White House in Washington May 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama congratulated Pakistan on Sunday for the successful completion of its parliamentary elections and said the United States would work with the country's new government as an equal partner.

"The United States stands with all Pakistanis in welcoming this historic peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power, which is a significant milestone in Pakistan's democratic progress," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

"By conducting competitive campaigns, freely exercising your democratic rights, and persevering despite intimidation by violent extremists, you have affirmed a commitment to democratic rule that will be critical to achieving peace and prosperity for all Pakistanis for years to come," he said.

Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif made a triumphant comeback in the country's election and looks set to form a stable government capable of implementing reforms needed to rescue the fragile economy.

The polls were seen as a democratic landmark, marking the first time one elected government was to replace another in a country vulnerable to military takeovers.

Washington is eager to maintain a stable partnership with Pakistan, particularly as it continues counterterrorism operations on the Afghan border, but the relationship has been complicated by U.S. drone strikes blamed for killing civilians.

Obama did not note Sharif by name in his statement.

Sharif, a former prime minister, is almost certain to take the post for a third time.

"My administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation with the Pakistani government that emerges from this election as equal partners in supporting a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for the people of Pakistan," Obama said.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently hosted talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's army chief meant to reduce tensions between the two neighbors, also called Pakistan's elections historic.

"The Pakistani people stood up resiliently to threats by violent extremists," Kerry said. "We'll be working with the new government to advance shared interests including a peaceful, more prosperous and stable future for Pakistan and the region."

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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