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CIA chief visits Pakistan

March 22, 2009|Associated Press

ISLAMABAD — The new CIA director held high-level talks in Pakistan as the Obama administration seeks a strategy to turn around the faltering war against Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

Leon Panetta arrived in Pakistan on Saturday on his first overseas trip since taking office amid U.S. concerns that political turmoil in Pakistan is distracting its government and army from combating Islamist insurgents who threaten the stability of the country and the surrounding region.

The CIA chief stopped earlier in New Delhi, where Indian officials said they discussed the November terrorist attack in Mumbai, which has been blamed on a Pakistan-based militant group.

In a meeting with Panetta Saturday evening, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani emphasized the need to resolve his country's 60-year dispute with India over the divided Kashmir region. That would allow Pakistan to "singularly focus its attention on eradicating the menaces of extremism and terrorism," Gillani's office said in a statement.

Panetta expressed satisfaction with bilateral cooperation and said Washington was urgently lining up more economic assistance for Pakistan as well as equipment and training for its security forces, it said.

Neither Panetta, who later met with President Asif Ali Zardari and the Interior Ministry chief, nor the U.S. Embassy made any public comment.

Meanwhile, the leader of Baluchistan province warned against expanding U.S. missile strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban targets along the country's thinly policed border with Afghanistan.

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