The non-official delegation includes religious scholars, political figures, retired officers and businessmen, the correspondent said on Saturday.

 

The visit comes after the first meeting between Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers in Istanbul at the beginning of September.

 

Representatives from Israel and Pakistan have been secretly holding talks for several months through diplomatic and informal channels, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported earlier this year.

 

Israeli recognition

 

Also on Saturday, the spokesman for Pakistan's president said that Pakistan would consider formally recognising Israel only after the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

 

The president, General Pervez Musharraf, made his remarks at a meeting with US Jewish leader Jack Rosen, chairman of the Council of World Jewry, during a meeting near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Thursday, said General Shaukat Sultan, chief spokesman for the president.

 

Islamic Pakistan, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, has long demanded that the Jewish state end its occupation of Palestinian territory and that the Palestinian state should emerge on the world map with Jerusalem as its capital.

 

Diplomatic breakthrough

 

Pakistan took a bold step on 1 September when its Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri met his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom for the first time in Turkey, a diplomatic breakthrough that both sides at the time said was the result of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

 

Shalom said after the talks that he hoped the historic event would encourage other Muslim countries to open ties with Israel.

 

At Thursday's meeting, Rosen told the Pakistani leader that Israel wanted to establish diplomatic, trade and economic ties with Islamabad. But Musharraf "clearly told him that establishment of an independent Palestinian state was a must for any forward movement" in this regard, Sultan said.

 

Sultan gave no further details, but Pakistan's independent private Geo television quoted Rosen - whose group is part of the American Jewish Council - as telling Musharraf that Israel wanted to have friendly relations with Pakistan.

 

Jewish donations

 

It said Rosen informed Musharraf that the Jewish community in America was collecting donations for the victims of the 8 October earthquake.

 

Pakistan declined an offer of direct aid from Israel after the quake, but said it could send aid through international relief organisations.

 

Pakistan did not invite Israel to an 18-19 November donors conference in Islamabad that sought more help for what is expected to be a years-long effort to rebuild quake-hit areas.