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Kerry to visit Pakistan, India this month
by Staff Writers
Islamabad (AFP) June 13, 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to India and Pakistan this month for the first time since taking office, officials in Delhi and Islamabad said on Thursday.

A senior Indian government official said Kerry would be in New Delhi on June 23 and 24, adding that Afghanistan would be one of the main topics up for discussion.

"They (the Americans) have repeatedly said that they welcome India's role in Afghanistan... They would like to see it go forward," said the official on condition of anonymity.

"We would like to get from the secretary a better idea of what the American plans are," the official added.

Kerry's scheduled visit to Pakistan is the most senior foreign trip to be announced since Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as Pakistani prime minister after May elections.

"US Secretary of State Mr John Kerry will be visiting Pakistan in the last week of June," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told a weekly press briefing in Islamabad.

He said the specific dates of Kerry's visit would be announced once they had been finalised.

US officials previously said Kerry would visit once the new government was in place.

Pakistan and the United States are key allies in the war in Afghanistan and the fight against Al-Qaeda, but relations can be strained.

US drone strikes targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives in northwest Pakistan are publicly the greatest sticking point.

Kerry earlier this month defended the strikes although Sharif has called for them to end.

After winning the May 11 election, Sharif told foreign journalists that he would extend "full support" to the US as it withdraws combat troops from Afghanistan by next year.

Pakistani-US relations nosedived in 2011 after US Navy SEALs tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden in the northwestern town of Abbottabad in May.

For seven months Pakistan also cut off NATO overland supply lines into Afghanistan after botched US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border.



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