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Britain, Pakistan vow cooperation on security

Written by: Staff
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Lahore (Pakistan), Nov 19: Britain and Pakistan must work closely together for many years to fight terrorism and religious extremism, the leaders of the two countries said today.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met in the Pakistani city of Lahore for talks on pooling intelligence, combating a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and structuring a moderate Muslim education programme.

''The president and the prime minister reiterated their determination to counter terrorism and extremism in all its forms and manifestations,'' the two sides said in a joint statement.

But Mr Musharraf himself has faced lonstanding criticism over accusations the Taliban get help in his country.

''Taliban problem is an Afghan problem. It is in the southeast region of Afghanistan, being supported by elements from this side,'' Mr Musharraf told a news conference with Blair.

''We need to put our house in order, here on our side, and make sure that this support is cut off, but the main battle is in Afghanistan,'' he said.

Britain has about 5,000 troops in Afghanistan, part of a 31,000-strong NATO-led force battling a revitalised Taliban, who benefit from sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the lawless frontier.

Mr Musharraf said a military solution alone in Afghanistan would not work and mentioned a peace deal his government has struck with militants in one region on the Afghan border.

He also said Afghanistan needed massive reconstruction help, invoking the Marshall Plan of aid for Europe after World War Two.

''A GENERATION TO DEFEAT''

Mr Blair said the world was in the middle of a long and difficult global struggle which had different aspects -- military, ideological and economic. ''This took a generation to grow and it will take a generation to defeat,'' he said.

''Whatever angle we come at this from, the result has got to be the same, that we are empowering the moderate people .. at the expense of the extremists,'' Blair said.

''To fail in this would be to be defeated, and we mustn't be defeated ... We begin to win when we start fighting properly, and I think, we are now fighting properly, but we've got to do more.'' British government sources say they are concerned about the flow of people and ideas between Britain and Pakistan, where some madrasas, or religious schools, double as terrorist training camps. Nearly three quarters of a million British Muslims have roots in Pakistan.

Mr Blair said relations with Pakistan were the strongest they had been for many years.

The two countries are to set up a joint working group between their interior ministries to promote closer links between their intelligence services, a British spokesman said yesterday.

Mr Blair, who arrived in Pakistan on Saturday, and Musharraf also signed a development pact. In addition to doubling aid over the next three years, Britain is to deliver two helicopters to Pakistan's anti-drugs force for use in their anti-smuggling operations.

The two leaders also discussed the need for resuming the West Asia peace process.

Mr Blair said global terrorism was based on an ideology that exploited grievances. ''That's why it's important that we deal with the Palestinian issue in a proper way,'' he said.

REUTERS

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