Ahead of the third Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran trilateral summit on regional cooperation here on Friday, the two visiting Presidents held bilateral level engagements with the Pakistani leadership on Thursday. While Afghan President Hamid Karzai stressed the centrality of Pakistan to the Afghan-owned-and-led reconciliation process, the focus of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was on energy cooperation to ensure that Islamabad does not wilt under U.S. pressure to pull out of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and other areas of planned cooperation.

The three Presidents held an informal meeting in the evening before a dinner hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari. This was billed by officials as a sort of preparatory for Friday morning's summit meeting. Into its third edition, this trilateral process has not yielded much till now by way of regional cooperation among the three geographically aligned nations primarily because of suspicions each has of the other's intentions and also Washington's disapproval of any dealings with Iran.

According to Mr. Zardari's spokesperson, rail and road links between Iran and Pakistan, energy projects, early realisation of the IP gas pipeline and other projects of regional connectivity were discussed during the meeting with the Iranian President. Mr. Zardari reiterated Pakistan's commitment for expeditious implementation of Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project, 1000 MW electricity transmission line and 100 MW Gwadar power supply in order to meet the country's growing demand for energy and power.

Mr. Karzai's meeting with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani saw the two sides reiterate their commitment to work together for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Though Mr. Karzai has been a regular visitor to Pakistan, this visit comes after bilateral relations took a turn for the worse due to several cross border attacks through last summer and the assassination of Afghan Joint Peace Council chairman Burhanuddin Rabbani.

According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister's secretariat, Mr. Karzai termed Pakistan's support as critical to the success of the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process and reconciliation in the country.

He was also quoted as saying Pakistan and Afghanistan were twin brothers and therefore should cooperate in the same spirit for the cause of peace and stability in both countries.

Meanwhile, the CIA-operated unmanned drones struck in the tribal areas of Pakistan along the Afghanistan border twice in the past 24 hours killing at least a dozen suspected terrorists. Both the strikes were in different areas of North Waziristan which the U.S. believes to be the nerve centre of the Haqqani network that has been accused of various attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

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