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Pakistani PM leaves for maiden U.S. visit

By Xinhua,

Islamabad : Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani left here Saturday for a three-day official visit to the United States.

“At the invitation of President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will be visiting Washington on 27-30 July 2008,” said a statement by the Pakistani foreign ministry.

This is Gilani’s first visit to the U.S. since assuming office in March 2008. He is scheduled to meet with Bush at the White House on July 28, according to the statement.

“The meeting would be followed by a luncheon hosted in the Prime Minister’s honor by President Bush. The two leaders will have a wide-ranging exchange of views on bilateral matters and regional and international issues of common interest,” it said.

During his stay in Washington, Gilani is also scheduled to have meetings with senior members of the Bush administration including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, it said.

He is expected to have interaction with Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, the presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.

“On Capitol Hill, the Prime Minister would be in meetings with members of the Senate and House of Representatives,” the statement said.

Gilani’s program also includes a think-tank address, meeting with the U.S. business sector, and an address to the Pakistani-American community. He would also have interaction with the U.S. print and electronic media.

On July 29, Gilani would be addressing Investors Roundtable on Pakistan’s power sector, which is organized by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

“Pakistan and the U.S. enjoy close, friendly and cooperative relations. The U.S. is among our largest trading partners and leading foreign investors in Pakistan,” the foreign ministry statement said.

“The two countries have had traditionally strong defense and security cooperation. We are committed to developing a broad-based and long-term relationship based on common values and characterized by greater collaboration in the fields of trade and economic cooperation, social sector development, and people-to-people contacts,” it said.

In 2004, Pakistan was designated as Major Non-NATO Ally. During Bush’s visit to Pakistan in March 2006, the two countries affirmed “Strategic Partnership.”

During Gilani’s visit, the focus would be on promoting a new partnership between the two countries on peace and prosperity, the statement said.

“The Prime Minister’s visit is expected to deepen mutual understanding and further strengthen mutually-beneficial cooperation in the areas of common interest,” it said.