Pakistan: Britain backs negotiations with militants

Washington, 22 May (AKI) - Britain supports talks between Pakistan’s new rulers and tribal leaders aimed at curbing insurgency along the Afghan border, Foreign Secretary David Miliband told a US audience late on Wednesday.

In a speech to a Washington think-tank, Miliband said there was “no military solution” to the spread of militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Miliband and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a joint press conference in Washington on Wednesday that promoting democracy was the best way to fight terrorism in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.

He visited Pakistan last month for talks with the new government and backed the government’s effort to seek a negotiated solution to the insurgency in its tribal region.

But Miliband warned that there should only be reconciliation with those who renounce violence.

Miliband’s views contrast sharply with those of the US administration which opposes talks with the militants and also backs President Pervez Musharraf in his effort to retain some powers in Pakistan.

Both the US government and Congress have increased pressure on Pakistan to abandon talks with militants and demonstrate sincerity to the war on terror by capturing Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

At a special US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday on Pakistan's militant stronghold, the tribal areas, Republican and Democratic lawmakers urged the administration to use its influence and persuade Pakistan to call off the talks.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told the hearing that Washington was concerned over the talks with the Taliban, whom US and NATO troops are fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan.

He also said Washington would like to see Mehsud arrested and brought to justice.

The United States claims that similar peace talks with the Taliban in 2006 allowed militants to build a safe haven inside Pakistan's tribal reas, which they now use for planning attacks across the world.


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