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Pakistan's Zardari To Meet Obama On US Visit


Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari speaks to journalists in Paris, Aug 2010 (file)

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari speaks to journalists in Paris, Aug 2010 (file)

The White House said Thursday Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama during a trip to the United States for the memorial service of veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Mr. Zardari will attend the service of the late U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Friday and hold talks with Mr. Obama.

The two leaders are expected to discuss joint interests in economic reform, support for democracy and combating terrorism.

Mr. Zardari is also scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Holbrooke died last month from heart complications. He was a long-serving diplomat who played a key role in shaping U.S. policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan after being appointed by President Obama.

Mr. Zardari’s visit follows a major political crisis earlier this month in Pakistan that led to a near-collapse of the Pakistan People’s Party coalition government.

Pakistani officials say, prior to leaving, Mr. Zardari made a point to speak with all opposition leaders to inform them of his visit, a move seen to ensure political stability.

Ruling coalition partner, Muttahida Quami Movement, or MQM, announced on January 2 it was defecting to the opposition, upsetting the political balance of power in Pakistan. The MQM has been at odds with the government over tax reforms, increased fuel prices and efforts to improve security.

The party agreed to rejoin the ruling coalition after Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani agreed to reverse a controversial hike in fuel prices that helped spark the breakup of his ruling coalition.

On Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met in Islamabad with Mr. Zardari and other leaders, stepping up the U.S. plea for Pakistan to fight escalating religious extremism.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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