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Afghan Commission Reports Improved Relations with Pakistan - 2003-12-03

Afghanistan is reporting greatly improved relations with neighboring Pakistan, following the latest meeting of a commission set up to settle disputes between the two nations.

After a series of tense verbal exchanges earlier this year, arguments between Pakistan and Afghanistan over border issues and the war on terrorism appear to be easing.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad says he sees great progress on coming to an understanding with Pakistan.

"We seem to have reached a point where we communicate better, we have more forthcoming exchanges, we're more engaged in trying to find solutions to our common problems related to terrorism," he said.

The positive statements come after a meeting in Kabul this week of diplomats, and intelligence and military officials from the two countries, joined by U.S. representatives.

The group, known as the Tripartite Commission, was set up following a series of skirmishes along the Afghan-Pakistani border, caused in part by disputes over the boundary.

Earlier this year Afghanistan also accused Islamabad of doing little to stop insurgents from hiding in Pakistan and crossing the border to try to overturn the Kabul government.

Mr. Samad from the Afghan Foreign Ministry says this week's talks focused on identifying trouble spots where militants often cross the border.

The delegates also reviewed a report from a team sent to tour the border to clear up demarcation problems.

A spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Major Bryan Hilferty, told reporters Wednesday that discussions on all the issues went smoothly.

"I was in the meeting yesterday and I can tell you it was very successful and very cordial," he said.

The upbeat mood marks a major change from past exchanges.

Minor border clashes have also cleared up, thanks in part to a hotline between the Pakistan and Afghan militaries, established after an earlier meeting of the commission.

The Tripartite Commission is to meet again in January.