Britain, Pakistan pledge unity in 'anti-terror' fight
The leaders of Britain and Pakistan on Friday smoothed over a row about tackling terrorism in the South Asian republic as they agreed to step up cooperation in fighting extremism.
British Prime Minister David Cameron had suggested last week that elements in Pakistan were backing the "export of terror", triggering a diplomatic spat.
But he and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari put on a show of unity after their talks outside London, saying the bond between Pakistan and the former colonial power was unbreakable.
Putting the row behind him, Cameron accepted an invitation to visit Islamabad soon and agreed to a yearly summit.
"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 said.
Cameron said he wanted to enhance London's partnership with Islamabad "in the absolutely vital area of combating terrorism".
And he said they 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," he said. "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."
Zardari has insisted Islamabad is committed to fighting militants in the region, including in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have waged a fierce insurgency since the US-led invasion drove them from power in 2001.
In a joint statement, Cameron and Zardari said London and Islamabad would step up their anti-terror co-operation.
"Among the common challenges facing the UK and Pakistan is the fight against terrorism and violent extremism," they said.
"Both leaders appreciated the close co-operation that already exists between respective police forces and other security agencies. The two leaders agreed that such co-operation needs to and will intensify."
Cameron accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan soon, while the two countries' foreign ministers will meet in October, and Britain's interior minister will visit Pakistan within months.
Relations between the two Commonwealth countries soured after Cameron hit out at Pakistan while on a visit to 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.
The remark infuriated Islamabad, especially as it was made on a visit to Pakistan's regional rival, and prompted the Pakistani government to summon Britain's representative in Islamabad for clarification.
Zardari came under enormous pressure to cancel his trip over the controversy.
His failure to return home immediately in the aftermath of the flood disaster has also drawn criticism in both countries.
Cameron and Zardari had an informal dinner at Chequers on Thursday ahead of Friday's talks.
Meanwhile Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 21-year-old son of the president and his late wife Benazir Bhutto, the murdered former Pakistani premier, said he would not be appearing at a rally with his father in England on Saturday.
Bhutto rejected claims that he would launch his political career at the event in Birmingham, Britain's second city.
The Oxford University history graduate is co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party alongside his father.
President Zardari will still appear at the event, the PPP's coordinator in Britain told AFP.
Bhutto Zardari said in a statement that he intended to continue his education, "both academic and political", and was considering studying law.
"An understanding of law and an appreciation for the rule of law is important for any politician seeking to strengthen democracy in Pakistan," he said.
© 2010 AFP