Pakistan leader talks trade and terrorism in Paris

8th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 8 (AFP) - In France on the last leg of a series of international visits, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday defended his record in tackling Islamic extremism and lobbied for EU trade preferences which he says are vital for the country's future stability.

PARIS, Dec 8 (AFP) - In France on the last leg of a series of international visits, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday defended his record in tackling Islamic extremism and lobbied for EU trade preferences which he says are vital for the country's future stability.

The president, who has been in Britain, the United States and several other countries, was lunching with President Jacques Chirac at the Elysee palace. He was also to see the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, before leaving for Pakistan.

In a breakfast briefing with journalists, Musharraf repeated his message that the US-led campaign against terrorism must not be limited to military measures but include action to tackle the social and economic roots of extremism.

"Pakistan happens to be in the forefront of fighting terrorism. But we see the combat as having two dimensions. One dimension is being applied. This is the fighting and the military aggression to which we are contributing the maximum.

"However the second dimension does not seem to have started yet. And this second dimension is the real dimension - the strategic dimension - which is addressing the root causes," he said.

Musharraf said the path to long-term success in reducing Islamic militancy lay in reducing poverty and illiteracy, and above all in finding a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The Palestinian dispute has laid down roots everywhere. Look at Iraq. I agree that the US military campaign there has to be sustained or there will be total instability.

"But the essential strategy is a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Its resolution will have effects everywhere. It will strike at the core of terrorism," he said.

The president said Pakistani forces in the so-called tribal areas along the Afghan border had scored major successes against Islamic insurgents linked to the former Taleban regime, and that the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been rendered inoperational.

"We have eliminated the insurgents in five valleys which were their centre of operations. They are on the run now in the mountains. They have ceased to exist as a homogenous group with command and control.

"Ben Laden is hiding which means he is not communicating and not operating .... I learned in the army that you exercise control through personal contact or communication. So I do not think he is any longer in total command and control of the group," he said.

The Pakistani delegation - which includes the foreign, commerce and information ministers - was using the Paris leg of the tour to push for the maintenance of EU trade preferences introduced in 2002 but due to run out early next year.

Under the changes Pakistan would no longer enjoy zero tariff access to the EU's 25 member nations for most of its exports, and the country is pressing for an easing of the conditions needed to qualify again for the preferential regime.

"One billion dollars (EUR 778 million) in exports can create 200,000 jobs - and that in turn supports one million people. That is the way to control extremism. It is unfair that something the EU gave us is now being taken away. We have not yet reached the stage where it can be withdrawn. We still need it," said Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar.

Musharraf confirmed his intention to stay in power till 2007 and said the aim of his international tour was to improve the image of his country, which was in the midst of a "societal transformation" towards a moderate Islamic state.

"In the past extremist organisations sprang up and because they were militant and aggressive they held the vast moderate majority to ransom. We are now ensuring that the moderate majority rises up to dominate the extremist minority," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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