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Pakistan Officials Agree to Peace Deal With Militants in Northwest


Pakistani officials have reached a peace deal with militants in the country's restive northwest, after months of violence.

Bashir Bilour, a minister in Pakistan's NorthWest Frontier Province, Wednesday said that under the 15-point agreement, militants will halt suicide attacks in Swat Valley. In return, the government will begin withdrawing troops from the region and make some concessions on militants' demands for Islamic law.

Pakistani security forces last year launched a major offensive in Swat against pro-Taliban militants loyal to hard-line cleric Mullah Fazlullah. Fazlullah has called for a holy war against the Pakistani government, and the enforcement of Islamic Sharia law in the valley.

Government officials are also trying to negotiate a peace agreement with Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militant commander Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan, also in northwestern Pakistan.

Mehsud is accused of organizing the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Some members of Pakistan's newly elected government want to negotiate a peace deal with extremists in the tribal region in an effort to improve security along the Afghan border.

But top U.S. officials have expressed concern, saying a peace agreement with militants will only allow them more time to plan terrorist attacks in Pakistan and around the world.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.