Britain, Pakistan pledge unity in 'anti-terror' fight

7th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The leaders of Britain and Pakistan smoothed over a row about Islamabad's response to terrorism as they agreed to step up cooperation in the fight against violent extremism.

British Prime Minister David Cameron triggered a diplomatic spat by suggesting last week that elements in Pakistan were promoting the "export of terror".

But he and President Asif Ali Zardari put on a show of unity after their talks on Friday, saying the bond between Pakistan and the former colonial power was unbreakable.

Cameron accepted an invitation to visit Islamabad soon and agreed to a yearly summit to strengthen ties.

However, Zardari later admitted that Cameron's comments had hurt him, particularly since his wife, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007.

"This is a friendship that will never break, no matter what happens," Zardari said just after the talks at the British 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 "unbreakable relationship" with Pakistan "in the absolutely vital area of combating terrorism".

They added in a joint statement that cooperation between security agencies "needs to and will intensify".

The two countries' foreign ministers will meet in October, and Britain's interior minister will visit Pakistan within months. Cameron briefed US President Barack Obama after the Zardari talks.

He had hit out at Pakistan while on a visit to India last week, prompting Islamabad to summon Britain's representative there for clarification.

"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," Cameron told an audience in Bangalore.

That came after leaked secret US military documents detailed alleged links between Pakistan's intelligence agency and the Taliban.

Zardari insists 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.

He told the BBC that he and Cameron had talked about the issue "like two adults", adding that Pakistan had experienced "the blunt edge" of violent extremism more than any other country.

And in a separate interview with the Times newspaper, he added: "Everybody is sensitive as we have lost so many people, including my late wife...

"So to have your credentials questioned does hurt sometimes. No matter how brave you are, it hurts."

Zardari came under pressure to cancel his trip over Cameron's comments, while his failure to return home in the wake of the worst floods in Pakistan's history, which have hit 12 million people and killed at least 1,600, has also drawn criticism.

He defended his response to the flooding to the BBC, saying: "The parliament is in session... it's the prime minister's responsibility and he's fulfilling his responsibility".

Cameron said Britain stood ready to provide further flood relief assistance.

Meanwhile Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of the president and assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, cancelled an appearance at a party event with his father Saturday which had fuelled talk he was stepping up his own political career following his recent graduation from Oxford University.

The 21-year-old, who is co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party alongside Zardari, said he would instead be opening a donation point at the Pakistani High Commission in London for flood victims.

© 2010 AFP

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