Expatica news

Pakistan president arrives in Belgium for Europe tour

   BRUSSELS, January 21, 2008  – Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf
arrived in Brussels on Sunday at the start of a European tour that will also
take him to Britain, France and Switzerland, a Pakistani embassy official said.
   Musharraf, whose visit comes during a deep political crisis at home, landed
just after 1430 GMT and was due to hold talks with members of the Pakistani
community Sunday, before beginning his official programme on Monday.
   The Pakistani head of state is scheduled to meet EU foreign policy Javier
Solana and address the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, as
well as have talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
   Musharraf, in his first major trip abroad since the crisis began, also has
talks planned with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on cooperation in
trade and defence matters.
   He is expected to face thorny questions over his commitment to fighting
extremism after the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and on
Pakistan’s slow progress to democratic elections set for February 18.
   As Musharraf flew out to clear up "misperceptions" about his country,
Pakistani officials uncovered bomb and poison plots aimed at causing massive
loss of life during the Shiite Muslim festival of Ashura.
   They also questioned a teenager allegedly linked to Bhutto’s killing.
   Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on its website that Spain’s authorities
had warned France, Portugal and Britain of the possibility of attacks during
Musharraf’s eight-day trip.
   Small groups composed principally of Pakistanis were preparing to carry out
attacks "imminently," the report cited Spanish intelligence agency sources as
   Then on Saturday, the interior ministry said that Spanish police had
smashed a suspected Islamist terror cell, arresting at least 14 people — 12
of them Pakistanis — and finding bomb-making equipment in raids in Barcelona.
   Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero praised the
intelligence services for the overnight swoop but said not to jump to
conclusions about those arrested.
   Despite this, Belgian authorities do not plan to boost security beyond that
which would be in place for a visit by any other head of state or government.