Blair, Musharraf Pledge to Fight Terror

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 28, 2006; 7:55 PM

LONDON -- The leaders of Britain and Pakistan pledged their commitment Thursday to defeating insurgents in Afghanistan, brushing aside a leaked British military document that claimed Islamabad's security forces are indirectly supporting terrorist groups.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Gen. Pervez Musharraf met for two hours, with both reinforcing their support of a NATO-led mission to support the Kabul government, a Blair spokesman said.

The meeting, at Chequers, Blair's official country residence west of London, followed Musharraf's visit to Washington, where he held talks with President Bush and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.

Thursday's meeting had threatened to be overshadowed by a military document obtained by the British Broadcasting Corp. in which a senior officer maintained Pakistan's Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence _ the country's top spy agency _ should be dismantled.

The broadcaster reported the document was written by an unidentified senior researcher at the Defense Academy, a defense ministry think-tank and college.

It said the author was also linked to the intelligence services and the document was part of a private British review of efforts across the world to combat terrorism.

Musharraf rejected that allegations that its security forces had indirectly supported terrorist groups and raised the issue with Blair during their meeting.

"The president accepted that document is not government policy, so there was no further need to discuss it," said a spokesman for Blair's office, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

He said Blair also assured Musharraf that British troops would remain in Afghanistan for the "long term," as part of the NATO mission.

Musharraf told Blair he recognized the need to continue working to reduce the amount of cross-border activity between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Britain's defense ministry said the material obtained by the BBC was in no way a report or a policy statement.

Instead, the papers were merely research notes taken by an academic to reflect material seen or collected from a variety of sources _ not a collection of facts meant to influence the government's position or policies, a ministry spokeswoman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

The BBC quoted the document as saying that "indirectly, Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism _ whether in London on (July 7, 2005) or in Afghanistan or Iraq."

It reported that the document said "Pakistan is not currently stable but on the edge of chaos."

The defense ministry spokeswoman, reading a strongly worded ministry statement, said the "academic research notes quoted in no way represent the views of either the MoD (defense ministry) or the government."

"To represent it as such is deeply irresponsible and the author is furious that his notes have been willfully misrepresented in this manner," the statement said.

"He suspects that they have been released to the BBC precisely in the hope that they would cause damage to our relations with Pakistan."

The ministry reiterated Britain's long-standing position that Pakistan is a key ally in the fight against terrorism.

Musharraf called the intelligence agency a critical player in the war on terror and said its work had led to the arrests of 680 suspected terrorists.

Following his Washington meetings, he said it was decided Afghanistan and Pakistan should have better intelligence coordination and interaction to meet the challenges of fighting militants. But a news conference following a dinner revealed a frosty relationship between the leaders, with Karzai and Musharraf not shaking hands with each other, after shaking hands with Bush.

© 2006 The Associated Press