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Visiting US Diplomat Holding Talks in Pakistan - 2002-12-16

A top U.S. diplomat is in Pakistan holding talks on bilateral and regional issues with officials of the newly elected government. She is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit since Pakistan elected a new government.

Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca met senior officials at the Foreign Ministry soon after arriving in the Pakistani capital.

The U.S.-led war on terrorism and Pakistan's tense relations with neighboring India are expected to dominate her discussions with Pakistan's leaders. Ms. Rocca's meetings include a session with Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali, who took office last month. She is the highest ranking U-S official to meet with the newly elected government.

Officials have given few details of Ms. Rocca's meetings. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan says the full range of bilateral relations and the regional situation came under discussion, saying the "visit is a part of the frequent exchange that the government of Pakistan has with the government of the United States with which it has very close cooperative relations. Christina Rocca is here for a two days of talks. She will be calling the president and the prime minister" on Tuesday.

On the eve of Ms. Rocca's arrival, Pakistani authorities announced the arrest of three Islamic militants who they say confessed to planning a suicide attack on two U.S. diplomats in the southern city of Karachi.

Pakistan's support for Washington in the anti-terrorism campaign in neighboring Afghanistan has outraged Islamic militants at home. Authorities have blamed these forces for a series of terrorist attacks against Christian and Western targets across the country.

A brief Pakistani statement issued after Ms. Rocca's talks at the Foreign Ministry says the U.S. diplomat deeply appreciated Pakistan's cooperation in the global war against terrorism. It says Ms. Rocca also underlined the U.S. commitment to helping bring about a Pakistan-India dialogue.

Pakistani and American officials say Sunday's arrests in Karachi will not affect Ms. Rocca's visit.