Holbrooke plans stopover in UAE

US special envoy is en route to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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ABU DHABI // Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is due to visit the capital next week for high-level meetings on the troubled region, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed. The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi said Mr Holbrooke would be in the country on Monday and Tuesday en route to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but did not provide further details. He is reportedly visiting for a meeting of envoys and special representatives for the countries.

The meeting will be attended by Dr Rangin Spanta, the Afghan foreign minister, and his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Policy magazine reported. "The UAE is seen as a platform for foreign-policy discussions regarding the countries of South-West Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan," said Dr Theodore Karasik, the head of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, explaining that the UAE was "neutral ground and very secure".

Mr Holbrooke's visit to Pakistan comes amid a period of renewed strain between the two countries. The US is keen to see the country step up its fight against the insurgency in its border region and has tied billions in aid to its efforts. But tensions have arisen over US drone attacks and delays over Pakistani visas for hundreds of officials. "In Pakistan, he will call on leadership, continue dialogue, and look for ways we can emphasise Pakistan assistance and address concerns," a spokesman for Mr Holbrooke's office told Foreign Policy. In Afghanistan, he will focus on training Afghan national security forces.