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Pak, US discuss Afghanistan as Grossman visits

Islamabad: Pakistan and the US on Saturday said they were committed to work together to back an "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process" in the war-torn country.

The commitment was expressed during a meeting between visiting US Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar at the Foreign Ministry on Saturday evening.

Khar and Grossman exchanged views on recent developments in Afghanistan and "expressed the commitment to continue to work together in support of Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process and for progress and stability in the country", said a statement from the Foreign Office.

The two leaders exchanged views on a wide range of issues of mutual interest, particularly Pakistan-US relations and the regional situation.

Khar underlined the importance of a broad-based relationship between Pakistan and the US "marked by deeper and wider cooperation in diverse fields".

Grossman said the US is committed to a "long-term relationship with Pakistan based on mutual interest and mutual respect".

Grossman's visit to Islamabad is expected to be the final high-level exchange between the two sides before US election.

The Foreign Office had earlier said that a proposed military operation in North Waziristan could figure in the discussions but there was no official word on whether Grossman had raised the issue.

The US has been pressuring Pakistan to crack down on militants in North Waziristan, which it has described as a safe haven for Taliban and al Qaeda elements.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction at progress made by the Working Group on Law Enforcement and Counter-Terrorism during a recent meeting in Washington. They hoped that the Working Groups on Economy and Finance and Energy and Water will meet soon.

The bilateral Defence Consultative Group is scheduled to meet in the first week of December, the statement said.

Grossman's team includes Senior Coordinator for Pakistan and Afghanistan Gen Douglas Lute and US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Lavoy.

He is expected to hold meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani during his two-day stay in Islamabad.

Pakistan and the US have struggled to put their relations on an even keel following a series of crises, including the American military raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May last year and the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border NATO air strike last November.

Though Pakistan reopened the NATO supply routes to Afghanistan after closing them for over six months in the wake of last year's air strike, bilateral relations have been hit by mistrust and US accusations about Pakistan backing militant groups like the Haqqani network, which are blamed for cross-border attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.


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