WASHINGTON - While US lawmakers rejected a demand by a Pakistani parliamentary committee for an end to US-sponsored drone strikes, the Obama administration has deferred its response until the completion of the review process.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the US was committed to an ‘honest, constructive, mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan,” in response to a question on the recommendations made by the committee.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman left for Islamabad for consultations with the government as the parliamentary review proceeds.

Secretary Clinton said the US and Pakistan share interests in fighting terrorism, but declined to comment in-depth on the recommendations. “We’ve been working through these difficulties and challenges. We believe we have shared interests. We believe we have the same enemies,” Clinton said at a news conference with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul.

“We believe that it’s important to support counter-terrorism against the insurgents who kill and maim tens of thousands of Pakistani people, who send teams across the border to kill and maim people in Afghanistan and to kill and maim our soldiers and others,” Clinton said.

Clinton said that she would not comment on the recommendations made by Pakistani parliamentary panel until its findings come up for debate before the Pakistani parliament.

But Independent Senator Joe Lieberman rejected the demand. “The drone strikes are critically important to America’s national security. So obviously I do not believe they should stop,” he said.

The drones are needed, absent a more aggressive effort by Pakistan to root out terrorists and radical militants, according to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I think the key is whether Pakistan will go into North Waziristan and other places and take out those terrorist leaders who are essentially fuelling and leading attacks against our troops in Afghanistan,” she said. “I think that is the outstanding issue, which determines if Pakistan will take the action and shut down the bomb factories and go after the [terrorist] leadership - then the drone is not necessary.”

Pakistan has long complained that drone attacks are a violation of national sovereignty. Although Pakistan has never given the United States formal permission to carry out aerial strikes, the attacks are believed to be carried out with some degree of cooperation by Pakistani intelligence, American sources say.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he is mindful of Pakistan’s objections. “I do believe sovereignty is, obviously, a big issue for any country. But I would like to see Pakistan embrace the idea that extremism has no welcome home in Pakistan. The day that the Pakistani people, though their government, will tell extremists ‘You are not welcome here’ is [would be] a breakthrough for the people of Pakistan,” said Graham.

Graham said that drone strikes have been effective and that, in his words, “it is not in Pakistan’s long-term interest to be seen by the world-at-large as a safe haven for terrorists.”

Earlier, the State Department took about the same lime amid questions at the daily briefing.

Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Washington will wait for outcome of the full parliamentary debate in Islamabad before it makes any specific comment on recommendations. “We also have always considered that our relationship should be grounded on the basis of mutual respect and common interest,” she said, when suggested that the key panel’s recommendations emphasised the need for a mutuality of respect and interest in taking forward the bilateral ties.

“We believe that we have a lot to do together, not only in combating terrorism and creating more security but in strengthening and promoting economic prosperity, democratic development inside Pakistan, and in strengthening Pakistan as a good neighbour throughout the region, strengthening its ties in the neighbourhood,” Nuland added. “So all of those things are the work that we have to do together and it’s in our interest to contribute to.”

The spokesperson was echoing White House comments about the significance of Pakistan’s counterterrorism cooperation in the region. “One of the reasons why the relationship with Pakistan remains extremely important to us because of the - is because of the role that Pakistan plays in our efforts to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan and achieve our objectives in terms of taking the fight to, and ultimately defeating al Qaeda,” White House Secretary Jay Carney noted at the daily briefing.

At the State Department, Nuland also explained the importance of Pakistan’s role in the region in the economic integration perspective.

“In the context of our New Silk Road Initiative, we’re trying to strengthen ties among all the countries in that region. And we’ve been supportive, for example, of warming ties between India and Pakistan, between Pakistan and Afghanistan, so it’s an ongoing work.”