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Pakistani Minister: Afghanistan Shares Blame for Border Unrest


Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Friday Afghanistan bears a heavy share of blame for unrest along their mutual border. The Pakistani official held talks on security and other issues with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Pakistani foreign minister's visit, a prelude to White House talks later this month between President Bush and Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, came amid rising concern about the border situation.

U.S. officials, including senior military officers, have been blaming Pakistan for rising violence, including a growing toll of U.S. casualties fighting with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

But in an appearance at Washington's Brookings Institution, following a meeting with Secretary Rice, Foreign Minister Qureshi defended Pakistan's performance on the border, saying it has deployed 100,000 troops to the area and set up some 1,200 checkpoints.

He said he is ready to concede that some fringe-element militants from Pakistan have contributed to some of the violence, but that is largely, in his words, not Pakistan's doing.

He said poor governance, warlordism, drug trafficking and factionalism on the Afghan side are major factors in the upsurge, which he said can only be tackled collectively:

"It's easy to pass the buck [lay blame]," he said. "We don't now want to go into a blame game, because we feel we have a common enemy. We feel we need a common approach. This war, this fight against extremism has to be fought and won collectively at the global level."

The New York Times quoted U.S. military and intelligence officials this week as saying that an increasing number of foreign fighters are entering Pakistan, some on commercial flights from the Gulf, to join militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Qureshi told the Brookings audience that Pakistan now has what he termed a fairly watertight, though not foolproof, controls on airport entries, of which Pakistan's friends and allies are well aware. He said steps are also being taken to curtail land transits.

But he also stressed the difficulty of policing the rugged Afghan border, crossed every day by 40-thousand civilians and a like number of vehicles, and, he said his government is pressing Afghanistan to enact tighter controls, including so-called biometric identity documents.

Rice and Qureshi met privately for about an hour, and officials here said they covered security issues and Afghanistan, Pakistan-India relations, and the effect of soaring energy and food prices on Pakistan.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said an increase in the civilian part of the largely security-related U.S. aid program for Pakistan is under consideration, though he offered no details.

Qureshi said one of the priorities of the new civilian-led government in Islamabad is to try to remove what he called a trust deficit between India and Pakistan, including on their Kashmir dispute, for which he conceded there are no quick fixes.

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