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Holbrooke To Focus On Displaced In Trip To Pakistan, Afghanistan

Richard Holbrooke
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke has left for Pakistan in a trip that will focus on the plight of people displaced by recent fighting, the State Department said.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Holbrooke would be in Islamabad until July 23 where he planned to meet Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari as well as the head of the army and intelligence services. He would then travel on to Afghanistan.

"Ambassador Holbrooke will focus on a range of economic and security issues, in particular the situation of the internal refugees and reconstruction plans for their return to their homes," Wood told reporters.

Holbrooke visited Pakistan last month to assess relief efforts to help an estimated 2 million people who fled a Pakistani offensive against Taliban militants in the Swat valley.

Pakistani authorities have now started to lift restrictions on the return of those displaced by the fighting, an exodus that stretched the country's resources and prompted a global appeal for humanitarian aid.

Wood said Holbrooke's schedule had not yet been settled in Afghanistan, which holds a presidential election on August 20.

U.S. President Barack Obama has put Afghanistan and Pakistan at the center of his foreign policy agenda and launched a new strategy aimed at defeating Al-Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan.