Pakistan president to raise Cameron's 'uncalled for remarks'

3rd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Asif Ali Zardari will address British Prime Minister David Cameron's "uncalled for" criticism of Pakistan's stance on terrorism at a meeting this week, the Pakistani leader's spokesman said.

Zardari was in Paris on Monday for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and was due to travel the next day to Britain, whose leader last week accused elements within Pakistan of backing Afghan Taliban extremists.

In a statement issued after the talks, Zardari's office said he told Sarkozy it was "unfortunate if some people continued to express doubts and misgivings about our will and determination to fight the militants to the finish."

Zardari told his French host that Pakistan was committed to the fight against extremists in its region, insisting: "No other country in the international coalition has paid such a heavy price in this fight."

The Pakistani leader is due to meet the British prime minister on Friday at his country retreat outside London, despite calls from some in Pakistan for him to cancel the visit in protest at Cameron's criticism.

Zardari's office rejected this idea, arguing that the trip gives Pakistan a chance to make its case, according to the same statement, which cited presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

"The spokesperson rejected the notion that the president should have cancelled the UK trip to protest Prime Minister Cameron's remarks in Banglore," the statement said.

"He said that Cameron's uncalled for remarks and the fact that these were made in India had disappointed the people of Pakistan and it was all the more important that the president's visit to the UK went ahead as planned to raise this and other issues with the British prime minister."

Earlier, a senior French official had told reporters that the issue of Cameron's criticism had not come up at the bilateral meeting.

Last week, criticising Pakistan during a trade visit to India, Cameron said: "We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror."

On Monday, Cameron's office insisted he stood by his complaint, but made it clear that he was referring to elements with the Pakistani state and not to the policies of Zardari's government.

Pakistani forces and civilians have born heavy losses in attacks by the so-called "Pakistani Taliban", especially in the two years since Zardari's wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by extremists.

But many observers accuse Islamabad's ISI intelligence agency of playing a double game, cracking down on militants within Pakistan while at the same time sponsoring the "Afghan Taliban" battling NATO in Afghanistan.

© 2010 AFP

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