BBC : Brown urges firmer Pakistan links

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brown urges firmer Pakistan links

April 27, 2009

Gordon Brown has called for a "stronger relationship" between the UK and Pakistan to fight the threat posed by extremism and terrorism.

Speaking in Islamabad, the prime minister said a "strategic dialogue on all the issues" was needed.

Mr Brown, standing beside Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani, pledged £10m to fight extremism in the country.

Earlier, Pakistan's president pulled out of a joint news conference, amid tensions over recent anti-terror raids.

Sources suggest Asif Zardari was unhappy with the fallout from operations in the UK earlier this month, in which 11 Pakistani nationals were arrested.

Mr Brown still met the president but his press conference instead took place with Mr Gilani, with whom he also held talks.

'Not disrupted'

Operation Pathway - the anti-terrorist operation which took place recently in Liverpool, Manchester and Clitheroe - saw Pakistani nationals arrested and later released without charge.

Ten of the them are in Britain on student visas but are now facing possible deportation proceedings, something which has already been criticised by Pakistan's high commissioner in London, who said they should be allowed to complete their studies.

At the press conference, this was echoed by Mr Gilani, who said: "I think the law will take its own course and I would also request of the prime minister that their studies should not be disrupted."

Mr Brown said: "Today we have agreed a new and stronger relationship between our two countries - vital and urgent work we will undertake together which sets out our shared priorities of tackling violent extremism.

"We will support each other more strongly on counter terrorism activities. We will engage in a strategic dialogue on all the issues surrounding this and we will consider task forces and work streams that will deliver that strategic dialogue for us.

"And we will support this close co-operation immediately by the UK delivering a £10m package of counter terrorism capacity giving assistance to Pakistan's agencies."

'Chain of terror'

Mr Brown earlier went to Afghanistan's Helmand province, where he met British troops.

After talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, he announced a new strategy for dealing with terrorism across border areas with Pakistan.

Mr Brown warned of a "chain of terror" starting in the mountainous region and ending in capital cities worldwide.

He said the UK wanted provinces to be handed over to government control one by one - similar to the process in Iraq.

Mr Brown said he also wanted to see the Afghan army expanded from 75,000 to 135,000-strong by the end of 2011, as well as seeing thousands more police.

Meanwhile, US general David McKiernan, in charge of NATO's operation in Afghanistan, has warned of rising military and civilian casualties.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute, he said the arrival of thousands of additional US troops in the coming months would probably lead to "another sizeable increase in kinetic activity" in 2009 "as the new troops move into new areas to help protect the population and engage the enemy."

He called the likely increase in civilian and NATO casualties "regrettable", but said it would not indicate deteriorating security.

The general said the insurgency was not spreading, noting that 70% of the violence in 2008 took place in 10% of the districts.

He added: "It is imperative that all NATO nations strongly consider how they can help us to fill the manning and capability shortfalls".

He condemned the practice of countries applying so-called "national caveats" to their NATO contributions in Afghanistan.

And Pakistan's military had to "take the lead" in removing extremists from "insurgent sanctuaries" on its territory, he said.