18 November, 2006

Tony Blair in Pakistan.

Tony Blair has gone to Pakistan bearing gifts for President Musharraf. According to the BBC:

It is expected that security in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism co-operation will be on the agenda.

Mr Blair will also pledge to double the UK's development aid for Pakistan to £480m ($960m), UK officials said.

The money over three years will be used to support Gen Musharraf's educational reforms which aim to counter the influence of Islamic religious schools, or madrasas, seen as a breeding ground for militancy.

"It is not just designed to counter radicalism but also to train people in the skills which allow the Pakistan economy to develop," Mr Blair's spokesman told reporters.

There will also be a counter-terrorism package of technical assistance, worth some £8m ($15m), UK officials said.
No doubt Taliban infiltration into Afghanistan from its safe bases in Waziristan will be on the agenda.

The International Herald Tribune reports that Musharaff is calling on the international community to re-evaluate its strategy in Afghanistan. In an interview with a German magazine the president,
warned that disappointment with the Afghan government could translate into popular support for the Taliban among ethnic Pashtuns.

"Before it is too late, we must win over the non-militant Pashtuns and separate them from the others," Musharraf was quoted as saying in an interview released ahead of publication on Monday.

Musharraf also insisted Pakistan's secret service was not helping the Taliban.

"Pakistan is not a banana republic. We have an extremely loyal and disciplined army. The secret service is made up mainly of military men," he reportedly said.

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