Islamabad: The US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan arrived in Islamabad soon after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on phone with Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Sunday, triggering speculation that Pakistan was set to end a six-month blockade of NATO supply lines.

Gen John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, met Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

He discussed the reopening of NATO supply routes and the situation along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with Kayani, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

Allen is also expected to meet other senior Pakistani civil and military officials.

This is his second visit to Islamabad in a week. The ISAF commander arrived in Pakistan shortly after Clinton telephoned Prime Minister Ashraf and expressed the hope that relations between the US and Pakistan would improve during his tenure.

Ashraf was recently elected the premier after his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was disqualified by the Supreme Court.

Clinton congratulated Ashraf on assuming office and said Pakistan and the US were "partners in the war on terror and would succeed in defeating the common enemy".

Ashraf said his government and the people of Pakistan were committed to fight the scourge of terrorism.

Pakistan had suffered the most but its resolve to defeat terrorism remained unwavering, Ashraf said.

Official sources said Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, too had been called to Islamabad for consultations.

The late night developments triggered speculation that the two sides were close to a deal for ending a blockade of supply routes to Afghanistan.

The supply lines were closed by Pakistan after a cross-border NATO  air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year.
Islamabad has been insisting on a US apology for the air strike. The two sides have also been negotiating the fees to be paid by NATO for every container and tanker travelling to Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

(Agencies)

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