Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Britain, Pakistan to work closer on terrorism

AFP , LAHORE, PAKISTAN

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf vowed yesterday to bolster cooperation "for years to come" in the West's "war against terror."

Blair, after holding talks with Musharraf in Lahore, said Britain would more than double funding for the fight against radicalism in Pakistan, with the bulk of the money targeting madrasahs, or Islamic schools.

"We are going to be doubling our support over the next three years for the program of enlightened moderation that President Musharraf has led," to ?480 million (US$909 million), Blair told reporters during his third visit to Pakistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The talks had "opened another chapter in strengthening that relationship" with Pakistan, he said, adding that Musharraf was an "example for the future of Muslim countries the world over."

Musharraf meanwhile brushed off concerns about Pakistan's role in fueling extremism and its commitment to tackling Taliban insurgents who are fighting NATO-led troops -- including 4,500 British soldiers, in Afghanistan.

"I did inform the prime minister on all that we are doing here as a strategy to combat terrorism and check extremism," Musharraf told the press conference.

However he warned that the international community needed to focus on politics and development in Afghanistan as well as security and terrorism if it was going to defeat the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban.

The two leaders agreed that their countries "would need to work increasingly closely together for many years to come" on counterterrorism because "its causes had spread," a joint communique said after the talks.

The bulk of the British cash will go towards supporting Musharraf's efforts to push moderation, particularly in education, where some madrasahs have been targeted for allegedly radicalizing Muslim youth.

Britain has been on a drive to curb an apparent rise in Islamic radicalism among young men in its 1.6-million-strong Muslim population, particularly after last year's attacks on London's public transport system that killed 56.

Three of the four suicide bombers were Britons of Pakistani origin while two of those three had visited Pakistan in the year before the atrocities, allegedly for training and instruction from al-Qaeda at extremist madrasahs and camps.

But the British intelligence service and police have in recent months expressed concerns about Pakistan's role in radicalizing Muslim Britons travelling to the land of their fathers and grandfathers.

Blair -- who has frequently called for greater engagement by the West with mainstream moderate Islam -- met Islamic scholars and visited a mosque yesterday and held talks with his Pakistan counterpart Shaukat Aziz.

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