Pakistan Army chief denies secret Karzai-Haqqani meet

Relations between Kabul and Islamabad have been marked by distrust.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Wednesday denied organising secret meetings in Kabul between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a senior al Qaeda-linked militant.

Kayani`s brief statement came days after a media report claimed that he and the head of Pakistani intelligence services facilitated a meeting between Karzai and Sirajuddin Haqqani, who heads the Haqqani network.

"General Ashfaq Kayani has said that during his last two visits to Kabul, he met President Karzai to discuss issues of mutual interest," the military said in a statement.

It quoted Kayani as saying that on both these occasions, recently-sacked NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal was also present.

The statement, however, did not specify when the meetings took place.

"This transparent trilateral engagement augurs well for the comfort level of the leadership of all prime stake holders and strengthens the existing relationship," Kayani said.

Relations between Kabul and Islamabad have been marked by distrust, but there have been growing signs of rapprochement and Karzai in March welcomed an offer from Pakistan to help with peace efforts.

Karzai`s spokesman Waheed Omar had also dismissed the report that the Afghan President had a face-to-face with Haqqani in Kabul.

Haqqani network leaders are based in North Waziristan. Created by Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani and run by his son Sirajuddin the group is one of the toughest foes for foreign forces in Afghanistan, particularly in the east of the country.

Pakistan has come under US pressure to press a military campaign in North Waziristan, but commanders have been reluctant to deploy overstretched troops against groups such as the Haqqani which refrain from attacks within Pakistan.

The United States and NATO, which prop up Karzai`s administration, have 140,000 troops in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency, and have so far this year lost more than 300 soldiers as the war intensifies.

Karzai has been trying to convince the rebels to give up fighting his administration in return for an amnesty.

A landmark conference convened by Karzai in Kabul last month saw 1,600 representatives from across the country come up with a 16-point declaration in which they urged all parties to disarm and reconcile.

Bureau Report

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