US, Pakistan Start Strategic Talks

Washington, Oct 21 (IANS) The US and Pakistan Wednesday launched a three-day strategic dialogue here, Xinhua reported.

It is co-chaired by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Matters of security, economy and agriculture are high on the agenda. Thirteen working groups are taking part.

The talks are designed to serve as "a venue" to ease tensions in the bilateral relations, said Frank Ruggiero, US deputy special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

US-Pakistan ties are sometimes strained due to US complaints that Pakistan is not doing enough to contain the Taliban insurgency in its territory.

Pakistan on the other hand expressed frustrations on the slow pace of US economic aid to the country. The ties were further strained after the accidental killings of its three soldiers in a NATO air raid recently.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen met with Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as part of the talks.

This is the third strategic dialogue between the two countries this year. It underscores the US administration's efforts to woo Pakistan, a key player in the war in Afghanistan.

The US Congress last year approved a $7.5-billion non-military aid to Pakistan. In return, the US is expected to continue to pressure Pakistan to step up its efforts to fight the militants.


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