WASHINGTON, Sept 6: Pakistan decided to “raise the level of the dialogue” with Israel after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, says Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Mr Shalom’s comments are included in an official version of a briefing he gave to the Israeli cabinet and was made available to reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

“President Musharraf had decided — in the light of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip — to raise the level of the dialogue and give a public platform to links between Israel and Pakistan,” Mr Shalom is quoted as telling his cabinet.

Mr Shalom’s comments confirm Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri’s statement in Islamabad on Monday that Pakistan’s contacts with Israel were much older than refuted and that his meeting with Mr Shalom in Istanbul last week was only the first public acknowledgement of such contacts.

Mr Shalom told the Israeli cabinet that Pakistan was one among “a series of countries” that Israel has been talking to for establishing diplomatic ties. He hoped that other Muslim countries that maintained secret contacts with Israel would follow Pakistan’s “brave lead” and agree to publicly acknowledge their dialogue with Israel.

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