Britain, Pakistan pledge unity in 'anti-terror' fight
The leaders of Britain and Pakistan moved Friday to shelve a row over a British attack on Islamabad's security record, pledging to step up their cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
President Asif Ali Zardari had vowed to confront British Prime Minister David Cameron over recent claims suggesting that elements in Pakistan back the "export of terror," which triggered the diplomatic spat.
But both leaders put on a show of unity after their talks near London, saying the bond between Pakistan and the former colonial power was unbreakable, while Cameron accepted an invitation to visit Islamabad soon.
"This is a friendship that will never break, no matter what happens," Zardari said outside the prime minister's weekend retreat of Chequers, northwest of London.
"Storms will come and storms will go, and Pakistan and Britain will stand together and face all the difficulties with dignity," he added.
Cameron said he wanted to enhance London's partnership with Islamabad "in the absolutely vital area of combating terrorism".
And he said the two men had discussed "what we see as an unbreakable relationship between Britain and Pakistan based on our mutual interests".
"We want to work together to combat terrorism."
"Whether it's keeping troops safe in Afghanistan or to keep people safe on the streets of Britain, that is a real priority for my government," he said.
In a joint statement, Cameron and Zardari said London and Islamabad would step up their anti-terror co-operation, with the two countries' foreign ministers to meet in October.
"Among the common challenges facing the UK and Pakistan is the fight against terrorism and violent extremism," they said.
"Both leaders agreed that terrorism and extremism are global issues and needed to be combated by intensifying cooperation at the global and regional levels."
Relations between the two countries soured after Cameron hit out at Pakistan while on a visit to its arch-rival India last week.
"We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country (Pakistan) is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world," he told an audience in Bangalore, southern India.
Zardari came under enormous pressure to cancel his trip over the controversy, but his office insisted that the visit gave Pakistan a chance to make its case.
The president, whose late wife, Benazhir Bhutto was assassinated by militants in 2007, has argued that Pakistanis are often the victims of attacks on home soil and that Islamabad is committed to fighting extremists.
Zardari's failure to return home to address the flood catastrophe rocking his country also drew fierce criticism.
After meeting Cameron, Zardari was to attend a Pakistan Peoples Party rally with his and Bhutto's son Bilawal, his PPP co-chairman, on Saturday in Birmingham, central England.
© 2010 AFP