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Pakistan's parliament passes new guidelines on U.S. relations

(AP) ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's parliament approved new guidelines for the country's troubled ties with the United States on Thursday, a decision that will likely pave the way for the reopening of supply lines to NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan that have been blocked since November.

The proposals call on the Pakistani government to allow the international coalition to resume transporting its supplies through the country, as well as demand an end to U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil. But the guidelines do not directly link the two issues or make a halt in strikes a prerequisite to reopening the supply lines.

Pakistan's parliament has in the past called for an end to the drone strikes, which are a source of popular outrage in country and have fueled anti-Americanism. The U.S. has ignored Islamabad's previous entreaties, and is unlikely to change its policy now.

Islamabad closed the supply lines in November to protest U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border.

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The government called for a parliamentary vote into relations with the U.S. to give it political cover for reopening the routes. Opposition parties riding a wave of anti-American sentiment had rejected a previous set of guidelines, but voted with government lawmakers on Thursday to approve the new set, suggesting that all parties wanted to put the matter behind them.

"We believe that the world has heard the voice of the people of Pakistan," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told parliament. "I would like to assure the house that our government will implement the recommendations that have been made in both letter and spirit."

He didn't say when the supply lines would reopen.

Washington has been waiting for the parliament to finish its review, believing it to be key to reopening the supply lines.

Behind the scenes negotiations also have been going on between the U.S. and Pakistan over the supply line issue and drone strikes. It was unclear whether there has been any new agreement on the strikes, which Washington believes are key to keeping al Qaeda on its back foot. Pakistani opposition to them is complicated by the fact that the army has secretly cooperated with the attacks in the past.

Few inside the Pakistani government or the army believe a permanent supply line blockade is worth the resulting international isolation. Pakistan relies on the U.S. and other NATO countries for its economic survival and for diplomatic and military support.