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Updated: May 17, 2011 17:19 IST

U.S. envoy to travel to Pakistan ahead of Clinton’s visit

PTI
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Marc Grossman, U.S. AfPak envoy. File photo: AP.
Marc Grossman, U.S. AfPak envoy. File photo: AP.

The Secretary of State told Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a telephone conversation yesterday that Mr. Grossman and Mr. Morell would soon visit Pakistan.

U.S. special envoy Marc Grossman and a senior CIA official will travel to Pakistan this week to ease tensions in bilateral ties in the wake of the Osama operation and prepare the groundwork for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s planned visit that is yet to be scheduled.

Ms. Clinton was scheduled to come to Pakistan by the end of May for the next round of the bilateral Strategic Dialogue but U.S. officials have now made it clear that the visit would be linked to progress in discussions by Mr. Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell.

The Secretary of State told Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a telephone conversation yesterday that Mr. Grossman and Mr. Morell would soon visit Pakistan.

“This interaction would help develop better understanding,” Ms. Clinton was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the premier’s office.

The U.S. administration sent Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to Pakistan as an emissary to find ways to ease tensions caused by the May 2 raid in Abbottabad that killed bin Laden.

Mr. Kerry reportedly carried a list of actions to be taken by Pakistan to address U.S. concerns about the al Qaeda chief’s presence in the country.

After his meetings with Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership yesterday, Mr. Kerry announced that the two sides had agreed on a “series of steps that will be implemented immediately in order to get this relationship back on track“.

He did not give details of the steps but made it clear that the U.S. wanted Pakistan to act against militant “sanctuaries” on its soil.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. was engaged with Pakistan to lay the groundwork for Ms. Clinton’s visit and she would go to Islamabad when she can hold discussions “in the right context and with the right preparation“.

Mr. Toner’s remarks indicated that the U.S. continued to have concerns about bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan.

“The Secretary does plan to visit Pakistan in order to have an in—depth strategic discussion about our cooperation and to convey the U.S. Government’s views on the way forward in Pakistan,” Mr. Toner told reporters.

Over the past two days, Ms. Clinton also telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and “talked about a way forward in the relationship”, Mr. Toner said.

He said “bin Laden’s whereabouts raised some concerns and questions” and the U.S. is trying to address these issues and move forward with the relationship with Pakistan.

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