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Clinton Meets Pakistani Foreign Minister on Regional Policy Review


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi late Tuesday as part of the Obama administration's policy review of the Afghan conflict and related unrest in Pakistan. Qureshi said his government is determined to defeat terrorism.

Clinton met for more than an hour with Qureshi in the first of what will be a series of meetings this week with her Pakistani and Afghan counterparts on how to deal with burgeoning extremist violence in the two countries' border region.

The Obama administration has launched a far-reaching policy review on how to deal with Taliban and al-Qaida linked radicals in the troubled region, but in a sign of mounting concern it has already committed another 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghan operations.

In brief comments to reporters after the meeting, Clinton pledged a very open and consultative review process with the two governments. Qureshi said he sees a convergence of interests with Washington on the conflict, and reiterated his government's commitment to combat extremism.

"There is a convergence of interests. There is a willingness to work together. And I see a lot of hope in the new U.S. administration, the new leadership. And Pakistan is willing to work with the American administration to fight extremism and terrorism. We are determined to defeat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," he said.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta is also in Washington for the review, and met with Qureshi Tuesday before the Pakistani minister went to the State Department.

The two neighbors have had tense relations and have frequently engaged in finger-pointing over blame for border violence. But Qureshi told reporters after a hotel meeting with his Afghan counterpart that there is a new environment between them and that trust and confidence has increased greatly.

The Pakistani official also said his government's controversial deal to allow Islamic law in the insurgency-ridden Swat Valley region is a local solution to a local problem and is not appeasement towards militants.

Secretary Clinton will hold a three-way dinner meeting with the Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers Wednesday night and meet separately with Spanta on Thursday.

Richard Holbrooke, the new U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan who recently toured the region, is also taking part in the consultations.

Pakistan's Qureshi is also due to meet with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who along with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel will release a report Wednesday urging as much as $5 billion in U.S. and European aid to help shore up Pakistan's government.

The report by the Atlantic Council policy group which Hagel now heads warns that without early and massive help, Pakistan could be headed for a financial meltdown.

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