US State Secretary John Kerry to visit Pakistan this month: Islamabad

ISLAMABAD(AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit Pakistan this month for the first time since taking office, Islamabad said on Thursday.

It is the most senior foreign visit to be announced since Mr Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as Pakistani prime minister after the May elections.

"US Secretary of State Mr John Kerry will be visiting Pakistan in the last week of June," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told a weekly press briefing.

He said the specific dates of Mr Kerry's visit would be announced once they had been finalised.

US officials previously said Mr Kerry would visit once the new government was in place.

Pakistan and the United States are key allies in the war in Afghanistan and the fight against Al Qaeda, but relations can be strained.

US drone strikes targeting Taleban and Al-Qaeda operatives in northwest Pakistan are publicly the greatest sticking point.

Mr Kerry earlier this month defended the strikes although Mr Sharif has called for them to end.

After winning the May 11 election, Mr Sharif told foreign journalists that he would extend "full support" to the United States as it withdraws combat troops from Afghanistan by next year.

Pakistani-US relations nosedived in 2011 after US Navy SEALs tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden in the northwestern town of Abbottabad in May.

For seven months, Pakistan also cut off Nato overland supply lines into Afghanistan after botched US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border.