WASHINGTON: The United States welcomed the swearing-in of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday as a “significant milestone” in the nation’s democracy.

“We look forward to working with him and the newly democratically elected government of Pakistan,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

“The United States stands with all Pakistanis in welcoming this historic, largely peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power, which is a significant milestone in Pakistan’s democratic progress.”

Some 13 years after Sharif was deposed in a coup and sent into exile, the 63-year-old was formally chosen by a vote in the National Assembly and later took the oath of office from President Asif Ali Zardari.

Sharif used his first speech as prime minister to reiterate his concerns about the use of US drone strikes to target Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan’s northwest.

“We respect the sovereignty of others and they should also respect our sovereignty and independence. This campaign should come to an end,” he said.

The unpopular strikes by unmanned US aircraft have killed up to 3,587 people since 2004, according to Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and have been a source of tension in the rocky US-Pakistan ties.

Psaki said, however, that the United States had a “very strong ongoing dialogue with Pakistan regarding all aspects of the relationship… including security and counterterrorism cooperation, and we work together to address each other’s concerns.”

It is critically important that we continue to work closely with our partners throughout the world, providing them with the support they need, helping build their capacity to carry out counterterrorism operations in their own countries,” she added.

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