Pakistan welcomes prospective US visit

Wednesday 11 May 2011

US senator John Kerry's upcoming visit to Pakistan intended to ease tensions, says Pakistani minister

Pakistan welcomed Wednesday a forthcoming visit by US Senator John Kerry, saying it would help ease mistrust after an American raid killed Osama bin Laden not far from Islamabad.

Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that he would travel to Pakistan early next week to put ties with Islamabad back "on the right track".

Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told AFP that the visit would help in efforts "to minimise the trust deficit".

"There are concerns from our side and there are concerns from their side also. We should address these concerns," the minister said.

Kerry has been a champion of greater US engagement in Pakistan and argued that Washington and Islamabad need to work through tensions fuelled by the May 2 raid.

Asked whether he would press Pakistani leaders on whether officials there knew the Al-Qaeda chief was living a stone's throw from an elite military academy for years, Kerry told reporters he would be discussing "all the relevant issues that are on the table, and there are a lot of them."

Outraged US lawmakers have voiced suspicion that elements of Pakistan's military intelligence services must have known his whereabouts, and are demanding that billions of dollars in American aid be suspended.

US President Barack Obama committed in late 2010 to travel to Pakistan this year, but the tensions in the wake of the bin Laden raid have cast further doubt on such a visit, and no trip has yet been put on his schedule.

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