Bad weather forces Zardari to cancel Afghanistan visit (Lead)

December 19th, 2008 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanKabul, Dec 19 (DPA) Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who was scheduled Friday to visit Kabul for the first time for talks with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, has cancelled his trip because of bad weather, the Afghan presidential palace said.”Due to bad weather in Kabul and low visibility at the airport, President Zardari cancelled his trip to Kabul today,” Simak Herawi, a presidential palace spokesman said.

Naeem Khan, spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Kabul, said the president had postponed his trip because of poor weather in Kabul as well as in Islamabad.

The Afghan presidential palace said in a statement that Zardari called Karzai Friday morning and said he hoped he could visit Afghanistan at a later date.

Despite heavy clouds blanketing the Afghan capital, several planes were seen Friday morning arriving or departing from the city’s only international airport.

Kabul airport is surrounded by high mountains, which hampers flights during the winter months.

Zardari’s trip was seen as a chance for both Islamic countries, which suffer from Taliban-led violence, to find new ways to cooperate in fighting Taliban militants and their associates within the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Relations between Kabul and Islamabad have improved after the formation of Zardari’s civilian government, which is seen by the Afghan government as more determined in its fight against the Taliban.

Karzai attended Zardari’s swearing-in ceremony in Islamabad in September and since then has met him twice: on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York and in Turkey earlier this month.

Karzai and Pakistan’s former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf were at loggerheads over Kabul’s accusations that the Pakistani military was training and equipping remnants of the Taliban regime, whose government was ousted in a US-led military invasion in late 2001.

Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, who are said to have safe havens on the border between the two countries, have stepped up their attacks in both Islamic states.

The militants have extended their writ to larger swathes of Afghanistan while their Pakistani comrades have also been behind a spate of suicide attacks and bombings in Pakistan.

The militants recently attacked supply depots in north-western Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, setting ablaze more than 150 trucks loaded with containers and military vehicles meant for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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