U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a town hall meeting in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe Saturday that she will raise the issue of human rights with both the leaders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which she will visit later in the day.
When asked why she would meet with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who has been accused of numerous rights abuses, Clinton said no contact meant no influence, and other countries that do not care about human rights would fill the vacuum.
Clinton is on a mission to promote her new Silk Road project, which would increase trade and commerce among Central Asian countries.
Clinton was in Pakistan Friday where she met with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. Clinton urged Pakistan to "take strong steps" to deny Afghan insurgents safe havens and encourage the Taliban to enter peace talks in Afghanistan.
Khar admitted Pakistan could do more in cooperating with other countries to clamp down on the militant safe havens along the Afghan border. But Khar noted that there are safe havens on both sides of the Afghan border and that there is "no question of any support" by Pakistan to the militants.
Clinton said Pakistani government officials had helped set up a preliminary meeting between American officials and the Haqqani network to test the al-Qaida-linked group's willingness and sincerity in joining the peace process.
The Haqqani network has launched a number of attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. has called on Pakistan to do more to crack down on the militant group, which is believed to be based in Pakistan's North Waziristan Tribal region.
Pakistani officials have so far refused to launch an offensive against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, saying they want to solidify gains against their own domestic Taliban movement first.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.