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Australian Prime Minister Praises Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Efforts


Australian Prime Minister John Howard is in Pakistan on a three-day visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. Mr. Howard arrived from neighboring Afghanistan, where he promised continued support for that country's security and development.

It is Australian Prime Minister John Howard's first visit to Pakistan. The two countries are key supporters of the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Mr. Howard spent the morning meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Shaukat Aziz. During a joint press conference afterward, Mr. Howard told reporters he was impressed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's resolute fight against extremism.

"I express my admiration for the strong stand that President Musharraf and the Pakistani people have taken in the fight against terrorism," said Mr. Howard.

Mr. Howard also extended his condolences to the survivors of last month's deadly earthquake, which killed more than 70,000 Pakistanis. The Prime Minister will visit the quake-affected areas Wednesday, when he is expected to announce a significant increase in Australia's aid package for Pakistan's reconstruction.

On Monday, Mr. Howard made an unannounced visit to neighboring Afghanistan, where security concerns continue to plague development efforts in several key regions.

The Prime Minister met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and spoke to some of the 180 Australian troops fighting Taleban and Al-Qaida insurgents in the country's restive southern provinces.

In the past year, more than 1,500 people have been killed in violent clashes across the country.

Last week, two suicide bombers attacked NATO peacekeepers on patrol in Kabul, killing at least nine people.

Speaking to reporters in the Afghan capital Monday, Mr. Howard said his country had no intention of abandoning Afghanistan.

"We are with you in the fight against terrorism, and we remain committed with our coalition partners to contributing to the strengthening of your country," he added.

Mr. Howard also said he was considering deploying 200 additional soldiers in Afghanistan next year, as part of an expanded reconstruction effort.