President Asif Ali Zardari will hold a significant meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmdinejad during a day-long visit to Teheran on July 16, highly-placed sources have told The Express Tribune.
It will be Zardari’s second meeting with Ahmedinejad in Teheran in a span of three weeks. The last meeting took place when Zardari, despite serious reservations by Saudi Arabia, attended a two-day international conference against terrorism in Teheran on June 25. After meeting the Iranian president, Zardari traveled to the United Kingdom on a private trip but met UK Prime Minister David Cameron in London on July 1.
The exact purpose of President Zardari’s latest meeting could not be ascertained as surprisingly, Interior Minister Rehman Malik was given the task to arrange the meeting and not the foreign ministry. Malik will accompany Zardari on the trip.
A senior interior ministry official told The Express Tribune that the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of troops by the US would be the main topic of discussion, with a focus on Washington’s ambitions to establish six military bases in Afghanistan.
However, a former Pakistani diplomat believes that Iran’s strained ties with the US and the West would dominate the Zardari-Ahmedinejad dialogue.
A visibly perturbed diplomat from a Middle Eastern country, who requested anonymity, even tried to establish the visit as a follow up of Zardari’s meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London.
The president might be playing a role in bridging the gap between Iran and UK, he said. “He might have brought a message by David Cameron for the Iranian leaders,” the diplomat added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2011.