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Australia, Pakistan Sign Counterterrorism Pact

Australia and Pakistan have signed a deal Wednesday to boost their cooperation against terrorism. The agreement was reached in Canberra during a visit by President Pervez Musharraf, whose courage in the fight against extremism has been praised by the Australian government. It's the first official trip to Australia by a Pakistani leader.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, left, meets Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Canberra
Australia and Pakistan are both staunch supporters of the U.S.-led war on terror. In Canberra, the two allies have further cemented their close relations with a new security pact.

This memorandum of understanding on counter-terrorism will allow the countries' intelligence and defense agencies to share information as well as train together.

President Musharraf arrived in Canberra earlier this week. He was welcomed with a 21-gun salute and a military honor guard at Parliament House.

This official pomp marked the first ever visit to Australia by a Pakistani head of state.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard praised Mr. Musharraf's commitment to the campaign against extremism. "I've told the president how much I personally and the Australian government admires his courageous participation and that of his country in the fight against terrorism. He himself has survived two assassination attempts. It's a measure of the danger that he's exposed himself to in participating in that fight," he said.

This is the 11th such security pact Australia has signed with international partners. It follows a similar agreement with Indonesia as Canberra seeks to increase its political and economic influence in Asia.

President Musharraf has used his trip to Australia to again express his optimism over Kashmir.

He said Tuesday that the long-running dispute with India could soon be resolved. The president insisted that the current leaders of these two South Asian nations had an opportunity to achieve peace thanks to a unique bond of understanding.

Mr. Musharraf said the tensions between India and Pakistan were a major obstacle to the region's economic development.

His three-day visit to Australia will be followed by a brief trip to New Zealand.