Pakistan's new foreign minister seeks to broaden U.S. ties

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FILE PHOTO: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, along with the leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, during a joint press conference in Islamabad
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Pakistan's new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Thursday he would like to pivot away from single-issue transactional relationship with the United States as he seeks to repair frayed ties with Washington.

"Our relationship with the United States has been colored too much by the geopolitical context in our region, and particularly by the events and circumstances in Afghanistan," Bhutto-Zardari told reporters at the United Nations during his first visit to the United States as foreign minister.

"We would like to pivot away from a transactory relationship, a one point agenda relationship, to a more broad-based relationship with a particular emphasis on trade," he said a day after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appointed Bhutto-Zardari, son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, three weeks ago. Sharif took over last month after Imran Khan lost a confidence vote moved by a united opposition, that blamed him for mismanaging the economy, governance and foreign relations.

Khan had antagonised the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year and more recently accusing Washington of being behind the attempt to oust him. Washington dismissed the accusation.

Analysts have said they do not expect the United States to seek a significant broadening of ties with Pakistan's new government, but to remain mostly focused on security cooperation, especially on counterterrorism and Afghanistan.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on Wednesday after Blinken and Bhutto-Zardari met that the pair affirmed a "shared desire for a strong and prosperous bilateral relationship."

Bhutto-Zardari also said he was not concerned about competing with neighboring India when it came to ties with Washington. The United States and India are part of a Quad security grouping of nations with Australia and Japan.

"Pakistan is not insecure about our relationship with the United States and we believe that the world is big enough for both Pakistan and India to exist," he said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; editing by Grant McCool)

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