WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama planned to meet Tuesday with the prime minister of Pakistan, one of a series of private sessions for discussions ranging from international to economic concerns.
Obama was to confer with Pakistan's new leader, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, according to Obama's campaign. President Bush met with Gilani on Monday at the White House and praised Gilani as a reliable partner in confronting extremism.
U.S.-Pakistan relations have been strained by the war in Afghanistan and questions about the whereabouts of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who some believe may be hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The U.S. has been pressuring Pakistan to take action against strongholds of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters believed to be in that nation's frontier.
Obama has called for increasing U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan and has said that as president he would take unilateral action if bin Laden were found to be in Pakistan, a statement that angered Pakistanis when Obama first made it last year.
Obama made the point again earlier this month, saying "if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights."
In a shift of attention to the troubled U.S. economy, Obama was to meet Tuesday with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and to speak by phone to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. As part of the government's effort to provide mortgage relief to hundreds of thousands of homeowners, Paulson has sought emergency power to rescue lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The sessions on the economy represent the latest step by Obama to shift attention to domestic issues following his weeklong trip to the Middle East and Europe. Since returning to the U.S., Obama has talked about little more than the struggling economy.
On Monday night, Obama told a group of high-dollar givers at a fundraising event that nothing is more urgent than fixing the U.S. economy.
Obama was also to meet Tuesday afternoon with congressional Democrats.
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