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Pak civil, military leaders discuss ISI chief's US visit

July 19, 2012 13:44 IST

Pakistan's top civil and military leaders have finalised a strategy for the ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam's crucial visit to the US, where he is expected to discuss ways to end American drone strikes.

The strategy for the next week's US visit of Islam was finalised during a high-power meeting co-chaired on Wednesday by President Asif Ali Zardari and Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf, and attended by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen Khalid Wynne, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the naval and air force chiefs.

"The security situation in the region was discussed during the meeting," said a brief statement issued by the presidency after the meeting.

Officials were quoted by the media as saying that the meeting focused on Pakistan-US ties following the recent breakthrough that ended a seven-month blockade of NATO supplies to Afghanistan through Pakistan.

The civil and military leadership advised ISI chief Islam to "explore new options and seek an alternative for drone attacks inside the country's tribal belt," The Express Tribune quoted its sources as saying.

An unnamed security official said Islam would travel to the US next week to resume talks on intelligence cooperation and drone strikes.

This will be the new ISI chief's first visit to the US since he assumed office in March, and the trip is being seen as the latest sign of the easing of tensions between the two countries whose alliance is crucial for the Afghan endgame.

Islam will hold talks with CIA chief David Petraeus on counter-terror cooperation and intelligence sharing.

Pakistan is understood to have offered a new mechanism to the US to replace drones.

"We need this precise strike capability to avoid collateral damage and its political repercussions. The idea is that the US develops the target and tells us, and we destroy it ourselves," the security official said.

Officials noted that the ISI chief was going to the US with the "full backing of the political and military leadership."

Wednesday's meeting also discussed the Premier's visit to Kabul, where he would take up the issue of repeated cross-border attacks by militants from the Afghan side.

Ashraf is expected to push Afghan President Hamid Karzai to take action against Pakistani Taliban commander Mullah Fazlullah's group that is currently based in Afghanistan.

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