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UK's Blair reassures Musharraf over leaked report

Reuters | September 28 2006

British Prime Minister Tony Blair reassured Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday that a leaked intelligence report criticizing Pakistan's ability to fight terrorism was not government policy.

A spokesman for Blair's office said the pair had discussed the report, broadcast by the BBC on Wednesday, at a meeting in London.

"President Musharraf accepted straight away that this so-called document was not government policy and there was no further discussion about it," the spokesman said.

The document, from a think-tank associated with Britain's Defense Ministry, accused Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, of indirectly supporting al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

It suggested the ISI should be dismantled and Musharraf himself should resign -- a notion the Pakistani leader strongly rejected in a BBC interview on Wednesday.

Musharraf has been trying to clear out the militants who fled to semi-autonomous ethnic Pashtun lands on the Pakistani side of the border after U.S.-led forces ousted the hardline Taliban.

A pact between the Pakistani army and pro-Taliban militants in the North Waziristan border region is meant to end violence in the area and choke off cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

"President Musharraf said he was determined to deal with the Taliban and reduce the level of cross-border activity," the spokesman said.

The U.S. military said earlier on Thursday that militant attacks in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, had tripled in some areas, despite the pact.

The Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan has also soured relations between Kabul and Islamabad, crucial allies in the U.S.-led war on terrorism that are both battling militants.

The increasing violence has coincided with British troops taking over command of NATO operations to provide security to bolster reconstruction and economic development.

"On Afghanistan, they had a long discussion. The prime minister stressed they were in Afghanistan for the long haul and that he was grateful for Pakistan's support," the spokesman said.

He said Blair and Musharraf also discussed the Middle East and were both in "total agreement" that solving the Palestine issue was at the heart of all the problems.

Musharraf is in Britain as part of a tour to promote his memoirs "In the Line of Fire". He is due to give a speech in Oxford on Friday.

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