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Afghan, Pakistani Leaders Meet in Islamabad - 2004-08-23


Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Islamabad for a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf. Each leader will offer his own agenda for the future of Afghan-Pakistan relations.

Afghan President Karzai says the key topic for his talks with Pakistan's President Musharraf will be the two nations' attempts to rout militants, particularly along their common border.

Afghanistan faces an armed insurgency by remnants of the country's former Taleban regime and their allies.

Many of the militants involved are believed to operate from bases in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal area along the Afghan border.

While Pakistan has launched a series of military operations to flush out these and other suspected militants, Mr. Karzai is interested in further efforts from his neighbors to attack the insurgent bases.

"We'll discuss in detail the danger that terrorism poses to both our countries, and we'll seek ways of how to address it in a more resolveful [resolute] manner," he said.

But on the Pakistani side, economic issues appear equally, if not more important than the insurgency.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan says his country is interested in furthering commercial ties. He particularly cites a plan to pipe gas from resource-rich central Asia, via Afghanistan, to the Pakistani market for export.

"Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan have already signed a memorandum of understanding for a gas-pipeline project," he said. "Stability in Afghanistan and close Pak-Afghan relations can give a strong impetus to this undertaking."

Mr. Khan adds, however, that whatever the outcome of the talks, the friendly atmosphere surrounding the meeting is a big achievement, considering the tense relations between the countries just two years ago.

"The real significance of the visit is that we have come a long way in our relations since 2002," he said.

At that time, accusations that Pakistan was providing Taleban insurgents a safe haven sparked a souring of ties, which culminated in an Afghan mob sacking Pakistan's Embassy in Kabul in 2003.

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