NEW YORK - President Asif Ali Zardari and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Sunday discussed Pakistan-US relations in Chicago, as Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman, in a newspaper article, outlined steps toward resetting their bilateral relationship, Òincluding an American apology for “the battlefield deaths at Salalah”

The US top diplomat called on the Pakistani leader on the margins of a crucial Nato summit on ending the war in Afghanistan, according to media reports.

No details of the talks were given.

The president was assisted at the meeting by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, Secretary General to the President Salman Farooqi and Senator Farhatullah Babar.

The US side included special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman, US ambassador in Islamabad Cameron Munter and Director Pakistan Affairs at State Department Tim Lenderking.

Earlier, the president reviewed Pakistan-Afghanistan relations with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai. The two leaders are among dozens of heads of state and government who are attending a two-day Nato summit in Chicago.

In her opinion piece to The Chicago Tribune, Sherry Rehman said her government had taken the first step by working towards restoring its Nato supply routes and now Washington should apologise over Salalah cross-border strikes that caused closure of the routes and end its controversial drone attacks into Pakistani territory to help rebuild the relationship.

Restoration of normalcy in Pakistan-US relations would serve the cause of peace and security in the region and be a death blow to extremism afflicting the region, she wrote.

The Nato summit in Chicago will focus on the endgame in Afghanistan on the heels of US House debate on bills that will shape the nature of the US-Pakistan relationship, the ambassador wrote as the US and Pakistan are working out details on how the blocked Nato supply routes could be opened.

“The tone of this debate and the diplomacy of the Obama administration will send a clear signal to the 180 million people of Pakistan as to whether the world’s oldest democracy will stand with one of the world’s newest democracies to defeat terrorism and extremism for a politically stable and economically viable South Asia. Many are pessimistic,” she remarked in the op-ed piece.

Stressing the importance of a series of confidence-building measures that could recast the bilateral relationship, the ambassador wrote “if the war against extremism is to succeed, the war of words between democratic allies must end.”

Rehman pointed out that the unilateral raid on Abbottabad, the Raymond Davis CIA provocation, the US-led Nato air assault in Salalah that tragically killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the continuing unauthorised drone attacks on Pakistani soil frayed 60-year special relationship between the two countries.

ÒSignificant progress could be made toward resetting the relationship between our countries if the US were to finally apologize for the battlefield deaths at Salalah,Ó she emphasised.

The United States should reimburse the Coalition Support Funds, US repayments to Pakistan for the cost of battling terrorism, owed to Pakistan, a very small part of the $78 billion that Pakistan has lost on account of the war against extremism since 2001.

Washington should also increase the sharing of counterterrorism intelligence to assist Pakistan military in combating extremism and cease the controversial drone operations that violate Pakistani sovereignty and the norms of international law.

On the economic front, the ambassador called for shifting to a policy of ‘trade not aid’ by providing enhanced access to US markets for Pakistan’s exports.

“These game-changing steps would serve as a deathblow to extremist expansion in the region.”

The ambassador reaffirmed Islamabad’s desire for responsible transition in Afghanistan.

“As the US prepares to exit from South and Central Asia in 2014, those of us who live and will remain in the region have a legitimate interest in a stable and responsible security transition in Afghanistan.”

The envoy also reminded the US-led counterterrorism partners of the massive cost in blood and treasure that Pakistan has paid in fighting terrorism in the region.

“Pakistan has paid an enormous price in our battle against al-Qaeda, with more than 37,000 civilians and nearly 6,300 security forces killed. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto gave her life fighting this scourge. Given this level of clear commitment, coupled with sacrifice, it is unseemly for our resolve against terrorism to be questioned by the West.

“The 46 nations fighting in Afghanistan represent countries with an aggregate gross domestic product of more than $365 trillion, and an aggregate military force of nearly 22 million troops. When this unprecedented coalition cannot contain the terrorists on the Afghan side of the border, it is naive to assume that Pakistan alone can completely eliminate terrorist activity on our side of the border. We have 140,000 troops in daily combat against the militants in FATA, Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Waziristan. We are hardly passive allies in our existential battle against militancy.

She drew Washington’s attention to the little-noticed fact that militants who fought Pakistan in the northern areas have found a sanctuary in Afghanistan, from where they damage Pakistani interests.

“America may not be aware that our successful (and costly) effort to clear thousands of terrorists from Swat, Bajaur and Mohmand has been undermined by militants who now find sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan from which they continuously attack our civilians and our soldiers. Despite the enormous efforts taken and huge casualties suffered, Pakistan’s efforts are in vain if NATO cannot provide the anvil to Pakistan’s hammer.”

The threat to Pakistan is real and constant, she wrote.

“The daily attacks shatter lives on a level we could never have imagined before 2001. Each military offensive launched in our tribal areas results in immediate attacks on our schools, hospitals, markets and religious shrines across our nation. Yet we are resilient. We continue the fight.

“My embassy updates the US Congress on a weekly basis of the toll this fight has taken on the men, women and children of our country — a staggering 43,726 confirmed dead. Just last week an additional 34 Pakistani civilians and 18 security personnel were killed in my country as we fight this war. This is our reality.

“While some may question our commitment and ask whether we are doing enough, the truth is that Pakistan wants a swift victory over terror more than anyone. Our existence depends on it. In order to succeed, America and Pakistan must forge a new beginning together, starting today.”

Zardari holds talks with Clinton, Karzai