Gilani's sudden cancellation of Europe trip raises doubts over Islamabad-Paris relations

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Islamabad, Sep 25 (ANI): Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's sudden cancellation of his Europe trip has raised speculations over whether the decision was linked to an Islamabad-Paris tiff, which began after France accused the Asian nation of sheltering militants.

After the Foreign Office announced the cancellation of the prime minister's tour, attributing it to his pre-occupation with the post-flood situation in the country, aides were busy trying to give explanations, but found few takers, the Dawn reported.

The question doing the round was what dramatic change in the post-flood situation had occurred over the past 48 hours that required Gilani to call off the trip.

Government efforts to keep the real issue under wraps by giving the flimsy excuse only lent credence to the rumours, while French Embassy Press Counsellor Adrien Arbouche refused to comment on the tour cancellation.

Diplomatic sources say the cancellation was linked to the unease in bilateral ties between Islamabad and Paris, after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's statement about presence of Taliban chief Mullah Omar in Pakistan.

France's ties with Pakistan have also been clouded because of heightened concerns in Paris about Islamabad's alleged support for militants fighting in Afghanistan. This was obvious during President Zardari's much-criticised visit to France in August, when President Sarkozy urged him to ramp up the fight against terrorism, the paper said.

Apart from the Europe trip, which was to begin next week with a visit to Paris, Gilani was also scheduled to go to Brussels to attend the Asia-Europe (ASEM) summit.

Analysts say the Brussels trip was particularly important for Pakistan, as Gilani was expected to seek world support for the flood-devastated country, and his presence would have helped at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) ministerial meeting on October 15.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will now lead Pakistan's delegation at the ASEM summit being attended by leaders from 48 countries. (ANI)

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