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Pakistan: Powell Meeting Officials In Islamabad

Islamabad, 16 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell began meeting with Pakistani leaders today to hear their concerns over military strikes on Afghanistan. The visit is cloaked in secrecy because of security concerns, but Powell was expected to meet military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar. Powell arrived in the Muslim country yesterday amid protests by Islamic groups backing Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.

Talks on a post-Taliban government for Afghanistan were launched yesterday between Pakistan's Foreign Minister Sattar and envoys for Afghanistan's former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah. The ex-king, who has offered to head a transitional Afghan government, has asked the UN to deploy a multinational peacekeeping force after the Taliban is ousted from power.

Meanwhile, Powell also is expected today to raise U.S. concerns about growing violence in Kashmir between Indian and Pakistani forces.

Government troops from the two countries exchanged fire yesterday across the division line separating the two sides in the disputed territory.

U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday called on both countries to refrain from hostilities in Kashmir. Powell plans to travel to India for talks tomorrow with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.