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Germany

Steinmeier to Visit Pakistan for Talks on Afghanistan

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier heads to Pakistan Monday for talks expected to focus on the worsening conflict in Afghanistan and the financial crisis, the German government said.

NATO soldiers in Afghanistan

NATO soldiers in Afghanistan are increasingly under attack by terrorists

Steinmeier will meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said at a news conference.

After Pakistan, Steinmeier, who is set to challenge Angela Merkel in elections next September as the Social Democratic candidate for the chancellery, will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Peschke said.

Terrorism high on agenda

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier is expected to talk about Pakistan's role in fighting terrorism

Steinmeier's visit to Pakistan is expected to be dominated by escalating terrorist violence, both in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

Islamabad has been prodded by the US to do more to flush out Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants believed to be sheltering in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas on the border to Afghanistan from where they are reported to launch cross-border attacks.

Last week, two German soldiers were killed by a suicide bombing in northern Afghanistan, bringing to 30 the number of German troops and police killed in the country since their mission began in 2001.

The German parliament voted last week to increase by 1,000 the number of German troops serving as part of a NATO-led force, for a total of 4,500, and to extend the mission's mandate despite it being highly unpopular among voters.

Financial crisis to dominate talks

Steinmeier's talks with Pakistan's top political leaders are also expected to focus on the global financial crisis, which has battered Pakistan.

Pakistan has held discussions with the International Monetary Fund and needs up to $4.5 billion (3.6 billion euros) in the next month to deal with a balance-of-payments crisis.

Stock market in Hong Kong

The financial crisis has rattled markets in Asia too

Analysts have said Pakistan could go bankrupt if talks it has begun with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) fail to lead to a bailout.

Islamabad has appealed to its neighbors and the international community to come to its aid.

The Friends of Pakistan Group set up at the end of last month includes European Union nations, the United States and China. The group aims to fund education and health projects that would prevent further destabilization in multi-ethnic Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan.

A first meeting of its members is set for next month. No funding pledges have been made.

In the Saudi capital Riyadh, Steinmeier will meet with King Abdullah and consult with the Saudi finance minister and the central bank chief, the aides said.

A stop Wednesday in Abu Dhabi to meet UAE leaders will seek to open doors for German companies pursuing contracts for huge plants and buildings there. German business executives will be among the touring delegation. A meeting with the UAE wealth investment fund ADIA is also scheduled

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