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Pakistani, Afghan, Turkish Presidents Pledge Cooperation in Terrorism Fight

The Presidents of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey have pledged to increase cooperation in the fight against terrorism, during talks held in Istanbul Friday. Turkey hosted the talks as part of an ongoing initiative to improve long strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But, the terror attacks in Mumbai cast a shadow over the proceedings.

In a joint declaration the Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey committed themselves to strengthening their efforts against what they called the scourge of terrorism. The statement followed a day of talks aimed at developing initiatives to enhance bi-lateral relations and co-operation.

Pakistan-Afghanistan relations have been strained in recent years over the issue of Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions being used as a base for Taliban fighters seeking to overthrowing the Afghan government.

But Indian accusations that a terrorist group based in Pakistan was responsible for the recent Mumbai attack dominated the joint news conference held at the end of the talks on Friday. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari sought to stress the positive.

"Our position is that we've always been and we still are the victims of terrorism and I have read these reports, Pakistan is currently doing its own internal investigation and is waiting for concrete proof to be handed over to us for further investigation into the matter," he said.

The Indian government is calling on Pakistan to extradite a number of Pakistanis who are alleged to have been involved in attacks against India. But a senior Pakistani official said India has to providdORIAe evidence to support its demand before Islamabad would consider such a request.

All three presidents at Friday's meeting condemned the Mumbai attacks. Fighting terrorism according to Turkish president Abdullah Gul was a central part of the one day of talks and he said significant progress had been achieved.

Mr. Gul says what was decided today is not just mutual declarations but concrete institutional methods have been devised between the three countries.

The meeting is the second of its kind organized by Turkey aimed at easing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Turkey has historical close ties with both countries. Afghan president Hamid Karzai says he made progress with his Pakistani counterpart.

"Since President Zedari's election to the presidency of Pakistan, cooperation the contact between the two leaders of the two countries has been extremely well," he said. "The two foreign ministers of the two countries have met and have decided to draw a joint strategy to fight terrorism al Qaida and other terrorist organizations."

Further meeting between the presidents are expected to be held in Pakistan.