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Brown takes new strategy to Afghanistan, Pakistan
Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:19am EDT
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By Adrian Croft
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday offering increased support for the West's allies as international alarm spreads over Taliban advances.
"This area and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the crucible for global terrorism," Brown told British and allied troops at a base in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, where Britain has played the leading role fighting the Taliban.
"It's important to recognize that if we do not take action and we do not fight back against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, then people in Britain and in other countries represented here are less safe."
British troops in Helmand will be reinforced in coming weeks by the arrival of more than 8,000 U.S. Marines, a massive influx that NATO commanders hope will reverse what they have described as a stalemate in one of the country's most violent provinces.
After meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Brown traveled to Pakistan for talks with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Although the Western forces are massing on the Afghan side of the border, attention in Western capitals is increasingly turning across the frontier to Pakistan, where Taliban influence has spread in recent weeks to valleys northwest of the capital.
Brown noted that the Pakistan army had been fighting the Taliban since Sunday.
"Our two countries face a shared and urgent threat. We will stand up to the extremists," Brown told a joint news conference with the Pakistani premier.
"Together, Prime Minister Gilani, we will reverse this trend we will take them on," Brown said, adding that there would be an intensification of cooperation in counter-terrorism.
Brown spoke of a "new chapter" in Britain's relationship with Pakistan, and the beginning of a strategic dialogue.
He also announced 10 million pound package of counter-terrorism support and said British aid would focus on education in the border areas.
Brown is due to leave Pakistan shortly after the news conference.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS SAFE
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that Washington was worried about the advancing Taliban seizing control of the Pakistani state, including "the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan."
Zardari told reporters on Monday that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe. Continued...
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