Leaders of Britain, Pakistan meet amid terrorism row

5th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron meets Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari's for dinner Thursday for the first time since a row over Cameron's criticism of Pakistan's approach to security.

Sources told AFP that the dinner, at the prime minister's country retreat of Chequers, would be primarily a celebration of Zardari's late wife Benazir Bhutto, the former premier assassinated in Pakistan in 2007.

But the two men hold formal talks Friday which a spokesman for Cameron's Downing Street office said would be "an important opportunity to reinforce strong links between the two countries".

Cameron would use the opportunity to "discuss how to continue to support Pakistan", the spokesman added.

Pakistani opposition parties and much of the country's media had called on Zardari to cancel his visit to Britain in the wake of Cameron's criticism of Pakistan last week in India.

On a visit to Pakistan's great regional rival, the recently-elected Cameron said that Islamabad could not be allowed to "look both ways" in denouncing but still supporting the export of extremism in the South Asian region.

"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, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world," he said.

The remarks infuriated New Delhi's neighbour, which argues that its citizens are, as Cameron acknowledged, often the targets of extremist attacks, including the one which killed Bhutto.

Cameron has this week insisted he stands by his comments.

And on Thursday, some British newspapers reported that Zardari had snubbed an offer to stay the night at Chequers, before talks on Friday.

Cameron's office denied there had been any snub, saying that the dinner was simply a late addition to the programme.

"The president would have been most welcome to stay the night but he had a late meeting in London so was not able to," a spokesman said.

Zardari has faced criticism from opposition politicians in Pakistan for failing to return home in the wake of devastating floods which have killed around 1,500 people and affected some four million.

© 2010 AFP

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