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Pak foreign minister arrives in Afghanistan

Kasuri will discuss border security with his Afghan counterpart amid acrimony over alleged infiltration by Taliban militants causing havoc in Kabul.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2006 19:28 IST

Pakistan's foreign minister arrived on Thursday in neighbouring Afghanistan for talks on border security amid acrimony over alleged infiltration by Taliban militants causing havoc in the war-wracked nation's south and east, officials said.

Khursheed Kasuri met with Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta upon his arrival and is scheduled to hold talks later on Thursday with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

They will discuss proposed tribal councils, or jirgas, aimed at countering the Taliban influence in the region, the officials said.

"We hope to talk about security in the region and also speak about peace jirgas," said Khaleeq Ahmed, a spokesman for Karzai.

"Cross-border infiltration will also be discussed."

Relations between the two Muslim nations have been badly strained by Afghan contentions that an upsurge in the Taliban-led insurgency, which has left nearly 4,000 people dead this year, is largely due to sanctuary afforded militants inside Pakistan.

Pakistan, a former backer of the Taliban, denies allegations that its intelligence agencies still give tacit support to the militants.

It says it does all it can to patrol the border, populated on both sides by Pashtun tribes from which the Taliban militia that was ousted from power by the US-led forces in late 2001 draw their support.

Pakistan officials blame the instability in southern and eastern Afghanistan on a failure by Afghan and international forces to bring security and development in the lawless region and public dissatisfaction with Karzai's government.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Kasuri's two-day visit is part of regular bilateral consultations.

She said Kasuri would discuss "how to bring about peace and calm in the bordering areas of the two countries."

Kasuri is expected to discuss Pakistan's own strategy for dealing with pro-Taliban elements on its side of the frontier, she said.

In September, Pakistan reached a controversial peace deal with Islamic militants in its volatile North Waziristan tribal region, and has advocated a similar approach to handling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

Talat Masood, a security analyst and former Pakistan army general, said the bickering between the two countries "has been only strengthening the hands of the militants."

"It is very important that both the countries realize that they have to be supportive of each other rather than be critical of each other," he said.

Tom Koenigs -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative for Afghanistan -- said he hoped the foreign ministers' meeting would stop the bickering and promote cooperation between the two countries.

"The best outcome of this visit would be strengthening cooperation," Koenigs told a news conference Wednesday in Kabul. "Forget the war of words and cooperate on deeds."