UK fully backs renewed military offensive in Pak: Minister

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London, Mar.29 (ANI): Britain has offered its full backing for a renewed military offensive inside Pakistan.

British Defence Secretary John Hutton said his country supports targeting Pakistan-based Taliban and al-Qaida positions and urged Europe to begin offering assistance to eradicate insurgents in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

Confirming that Britain was being drawn into a widening regional conflict, The Guardian quoted Hutton as saying that the time had come to target Taliban and al-Qaida havens inside Pakistan.

Hutton said the military objectives in the region must now have "an equal focus on both countries".He added: "AQ [al-Qaida] is in retreat, scuttling across the border into Pakistan. Trying to buy time. Desperate to regroup. That is why there must be no let-up ... there can be no escape, no hiding place."

He indicated that Britain, which has deep historical ties with Pakistan and remains its largest trading partner in Europe, must play a principal role in supporting the American military effort in the region.

An MoD spokesman said that Britain was ready to offer military, political and diplomatic support to a renewed offensive in Pakistan's tribal lands, but what precisely that entailed was dependent on the resources other NATO members were prepared to offer.

The most recent evidence that Pakistan was becoming an increased focus of concern surfaced last week when Prime Minister Gordon Brown pinpointed al-Qaida in Pakistan as the greatest threat facing the UK in his national security strategy. Two thirds of terror plots uncovered by British intelligence agencies have a Pakistani connection.Additional military resources are also likely to be deployed to the region once Britain withdraws its 4,000-strong force from Iraq this July, with moves to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan from 8,300 to potentially above 10,000 within a year.

The new found focus on Pakistan will dominate NATO's 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg this week, in which Britain and the US will attempt to drum up more support for the twin Afghanistan and Pakistan mission. (ANI)

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