Pakistan, US to hold third round of strategic dialogue

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Islamabad, Mar 26 (UNI) Pakistan has proposed to the United States to hold a third round of strategic dialogue in Washington in June this year.

Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq said at the weekly news briefing here this afternoon that during their meeting Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan and visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte exchanged views on the strategic dialogue.

The US side was also interested in early holding of the third round of strategic dialogue, he added.

The two sides also discussed regional issues, including status of composite dialogue and peace process with India and Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan.

They also discussed various aspects of bilateral relations especially the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, economic and defence cooperation.

The spokesman said there was no link between the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones and the reported proposal of the US to seek free movement of its personnel in Pakistan's tribal regions.

Mr Sadiq said, ''Pakistan is pretty much clear that military action on its soil is to be carried out by our forces while similar actions on the other side are the responsibility of the ISAF, NATO and Afghan forces.'' He said the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones are aimed at poverty alleviation in tribal regions and other economically backward areas of the NWFP and Balochistan.

Goods produced in these zones would have duty free access in the US market. He said there is legislative movement in the US for the establishment of such zones and the United States has also committed 750 million dollars over the next five years for development of tribal regions.

He added that the visit of Mr Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher was on the cards for sometime for the current month.

Suggestions were made about the timing of the visit because of the political transition in the country but the Deputy Secretary undertook the visit because his meetings and programme were already fixed.

Mr Negroponte met the President, Speaker of National Assembly and leading politicians.

UNI XC LPB AS1723

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