Biden in Pakistan, meets Zardari (Lead)

January 9th, 2009 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaIslamabad, Jan 9 (IANS) US Vice President-elect Joe Biden arrived here Friday at the start of his South Asian tour, less than two weeks before he takes office with President-elect Barack Obama.Biden and President Asif Ali Zardari held an hour-long meeting to discuss issues like terrorism and bilateral affairs. “The focus of the talks was the war on terror and Pakistan’s relations with India after the Mumbai attacks,” a senior official told IANS.

At the presidency, Biden was awarded the Hilal-e-Quaid-e-Azam, a civilian award usually given to foreign dignitaries for their support for Pakistan.

He is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss various regional issues. During his visit, he is also expected to meet opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Biden was received at the airport by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Pakistan’s ambassador to US Hussain Haqqani. American ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Paterson and other senior officials were also present on the occasion.

Though not made public by the US embassy in Islamabad, Biden is expected to visit Kabul and New Delhi.

“This South Asian tour will remain incomplete without going to these two countries,” said an official.

Embassy officials said that Biden is visiting the region as chairman of the foreign relations committee but in Pakistan, diplomats say there is lot more into it because of the current situation.

“The war on terror and the spike in tension between Pakistan and India is a real challenge for the new US administration,” said a Pakistani official.

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