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Britain Pledges Support to Pakistan, Islamic Moderates


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says, success in the war against terrorism depends primarily on providing strong support for Islamic moderates. The British leader is in Pakistan, where he met with President General Pervez Musharraf. Counter-terrorism and regional security dominated the talks.

During a joint press conference following their meeting Sunday British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised President Musharraf's self-described policy of "enlightened moderation."

Mr. Blair says bilateral relations are at their highest point in many years, and the two countries are united in their fight against extremism.

"All of us are facing the same threat, all of us are facing the threat of extremism. All of us are facing a threat from people, who want to close our societies off, who want to prevent people from making progress," he said.

Mr. Blair said Britain will double its development aid to Pakistan, pledging more than $400 million over the next three years. Most of the additional funds will go to education programs, especially efforts to reform Pakistan's religious schools, known as madrassas.

The madrassas provide free schooling for hundreds-of-thousands of impoverished Pakistani children. Many, however, are accused of promoting extremist ideologies, and have been linked to Islamic militants, including several men implicated in terrorist bombings inside Britain.

Mr. Blair said the growth of extremism has taken place "over a generation," and warned it would take at least another generation to defeat.

He also said British troops would continue to defend democracy in the region by fighting against Taleban insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan.

"Nobody should be in any doubt at all of our commitment to Afghanistan to doing what we can to support the government there, but recognizing that its not just about having the security and the force," noted Mr. Blair. "It is also about the politics, the reconstruction and the development. We need to do both those things together."

This has been the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taleban regime in 2001. The pro-Taleban insurgency has gained ground throughout much of Afghanistan's southwest and along its border with Pakistan.

General Musharraf also underscored Pakistan's commitment to targeting Taleban supporters who may be active inside Pakistan.

But he rejected allegations that Pakistan is partly responsible for the Taleban's resurgence across the border.

"We are doing all that we can, [but] the Taleban problem is an Afghan problem," he added. "The solution lies in what you do in Afghanistan, not what you do in Pakistan."

Both Mr. Blair and General Musharraf said regional economic development and democracy are key elements in the broader war against Islamic extremism.

They also highlighted the need for a resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to help ease tensions throughout the Muslim world.

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