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Clinton kicks off last day in Pak

world Updated: Oct 30, 2009 10:53 IST

AFP
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepared on Friday to wrap up a diplomatic mission to Pakistan overshadowed by an outburst against the government over Al-Qaeda and a massive bomb attack.

The top US diplomat was scheduled to hold talks in the capital Islamabad with Pashtun leaders, the ethnic group that dominates both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, journalists, police and lawmakers.

Clinton has sought to use her three-day visit to the troubled US ally to bolster the civilian government and counter rising anti-US sentiment as Pakistan wages a campaign against Taliban fighters behind a wave of bomb attacks.

But after calling for a new start in the often uneasy relationship at round after round of meetings, she appeared to lose patience during a face-to-face with senior Pakistani editors and business leaders late Thursday.

"Al-Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," Clinton told senior newspaper editors in the country's cultural capital, Lahore.

"I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to," she added.

"Maybe that's the case; maybe they're not gettable. I don't know... As far as we know, they are in Pakistan," she added.

There was no immediate public response from Pakistan. A military statement released after her talks with army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani said only that "both exchanged candid views on matters of mutual interest".

A massive car bomb ripped through a crowded market in Pakistan's Pashtun capital Peshawar on Wednesday, just hours after Clinton arrived in the country, killing 105 people and underscoring the gravity of the Islamist threat.

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