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    Karzai, Gilani confer on peace efforts

    ISLAMABAD (PAN): Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday agreed on strengthening bilateral cooperation in diverse areas, including peace and security in the region.

    Visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani discussed ongoing efforts for bringing stability to Afghanistan and the region at large.

    Soon after his arrival in Islamabad, Karzai visited the Prime Minister’s House, where he and his delegation were received by Gilani.

    At delegation-level talks, Karzai was assisted by his Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Zalmai Rassoul, Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta and other senior officials.

    Rasoul held separate meetings with his Pakistani and Iranian counterparts, Hina Rabbani Khar and Manouchehr Mottaki, said Intisar Sulehri, deputy spokesman at the foreign ministry in Islamabad.

    Gilani was assisted by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Information minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan. Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani was also present.

    During his two-day official trip to Islamabad, the second in nine months, Karzai will join President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a trilateral summit on Friday.

    Coming amid peace efforts wih the Taliban, the three-way meeting is aimed at promoting regional cooperation and boosting stability in a region long haunted by militancy.

    Scheduled to meet government and opposition figures, Karzai will hold talks with Zardari and Ahmadinejad, who is due to arrive in Pakistan later in the day, before addressing a news conference.

    Karzai will hold talks with opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) chief Maulana Fazl Rahman, Jamiat Ulema Islam head Maulana Samiul Haq and Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao) chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.

    In Kabul, Karzai’s office said talks with the Pakistani leaders would focus on expanding economic links and cooperation in ending the war in Afghanistan.

    The summit is expected to underline cooperation on in fighting terrorism and organised crime, including drug and human trafficking, border management and trade issues.

    Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Daudzai and Pakistani officials welcomed Karzai upon his arrival at the Islamabad International Airport at 10am local time.

    Earlier in the month, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar arrived in Kabul on a fence-mending visit, amid reports that the neighbours felt isolated as a result of contacts direct between the US and the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar.

    But in an interview published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Karzai said his government was part of the three-way peace efforts.

    A day earlier, the insurgent movement confirmed meeting US officials in Qatar, but ruled out similar negotiations with the Karzai administration.

    “There have been contacts between the US government and the Taliban, there have been contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and there have been some contacts that we have made, all of us together, including the Taliban,” Karzai was quoted as saying.

    He did not mention Pakistani involvement, but said cooperation from Islamabad “would make the whole matter easier”.

    myn/ma/mud

     



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