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New Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif calls on US to halt drone strikes

Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images

New Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces daunting challenges at home and abroad.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's newly elected prime minister on Wednesday called on the United States to stop carrying out drone strikes on his country's soil.

"We respect the sovereignty of others, but others don't respect our sovereignty. These daily drone attacks must stop," Nawaz Sharif said in his maiden address to the 342-member National Assembly.

Sharif was sworn in Wednesday by President Asif Ali Zardari after his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won a majority of seats in the assembly and its parliamentarians voted him into power as their leader.

"Building good relations with the U.S. based on mutual respect and interest" will be a top priority for Sharif, one of his senior aides said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not yet authorized to publicly address policies.

When asked how Sharif would try to persuade the U.S. to stop launching drone strikes, the aide said, "We will try to convince the U.S. that drones are doing no good to promote dialogue."

Muhammed Muheisen / AP

Images of daily life, political pursuits, religious rites and deadly violence.

Whatever his ambitions, Sharif is likely to be forced to "take a cautious line" on drone strikes, said Raza Rumi, director at the Jinnah Institute, a progressive Islamabad-based think tank.

"He is appeasing the popular outrage against drones and also keeping the imperatives of Pakistan's vital engagement with the U.S., and its commitment," Rumi said. "But as PM it would be difficult for Sharif to balance the two conflicting realities, and it would test his diplomatic and political skills."

Obama recently outlined changes to the drone program that would limit the cases in which strikes could be used.

But Sharif faces other daunting tasks. In addition to appeasing his countrymen without alienating a superpower, the new prime minister's "major challenge is the peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan," the senior aide said.

Additionally, he must manage relations with Pakistan's nuclear-armed neighbor and historical foe, India.

At home he faces a growing wave of militancy and extremism, an energy crisis and a perilous economy, as well as the need to maintain control of the nation's powerful military, with which he has a contentious history.

Sharif, embarking on an unprecedented third term as prime minister, was first elected in 1990 but was forced to resign in 1993 by the chief of the army over differences with the president. He was elected again in 1997, but his government was overthrown by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.

Even if he manages those tasks, he will face powerful opposition within the General Assembly, though one fierce opponent said his party would be more inclined to back Sharif if he makes headway in stopping U.S. drone strikes.

"We will not be a friendly opposition," said Javed Hashmi of Imran Khan's Movement for Justice (PTI) party. "We will criticize and check this government if it works against the interests of Pakistan. But, one area where Mr. Nawaz Sharif can expect our support is in stopping the drone menace. If he makes a serious plan to restore our sovereignty and stop the drone attacks, then he will have our support."

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