Pakistan must answer questions on bin Laden: Britain

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Britain will ask "searching questions" of Pakistan about Osama bin Laden's death, Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday, but added that Islamabad remains a key ally in fighting terrorism.

"The fact that bin Laden was living in a large house in a populated area suggests that he must have had a support network in Pakistan," Cameron told lawmakers following the death of the terror chief at the hands of US forces.

"We don't currently know the extent of that network, so it is right that we ask searching questions about it. And we will."

However, he said Pakistan had suffered more from terrorism than any other country in the world, and many of the attacks were carried out by the Al-Qaeda network on the orders of bin Laden.

"I believe it is in Britain's national interest to recognise that we share the same struggle against terrorism," Cameron said.

"That's why we will continue to work with our Pakistani counterparts on intelligence gathering, tracing plots and taking action to stop them."

Britain would also honour its aid promises, notably the £650 million ($1.1 billion, 720 million euros) for education announced during Cameron's visit to Islamabad last month.

The trip was seen as a conciliatory gesture after Cameron angered Pakistan by stating during a trip India last year that Islamabad was exporting terror.

Cameron said news of bin Laden's death was a "strike at the heart of international terrorism", but acknowledged that Al-Qaeda may retaliate, and said Britain would remain vigilant.

The prime minister also drew parallels between bin Laden and Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, whose forces Britain and other countries have been bombing as part of a UN-sanctioned operation to protect civilians from bloody attacks.

"Bin Laden and Kadhafi were said to have hated each other. But there was a common thread running between them.

"They both feared the idea that democracy and civil rights could take hold in the Arab world."

He added: "For 20 years, bin Laden claimed that the future of the Muslim world would be his. But what Libya has shown -- as Egypt and Tunisia before it -- is that people are rejecting everything that bin Laden stood for.

"While we should continue to degrade, dismantle and defeat the terrorist networks, a big part of the long-term answer is the success of democracy in the Middle East and the conclusion of the Arab-Israeli peace process."

Cameron spoke to Pakistan's president and prime minister on Monday. Earlier Tuesday, he told the BBC they "need our support and help to make sure the whole country is pulling in the same direction".

"Because if we turn away from it and give up on them... you're left with a nuclear power in danger of massive extremism and massive instability which would completely not be in our interests," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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