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Australian FM urges counterterrorism in Pakistan

Pakistan must win confidence in India by effectively fighting terrorism within its own borders, Australia's foreign minister said at the outset of a visit to Islamabad.

world Updated: Feb 16, 2009 22:52 IST

Pakistan must win confidence in India by effectively fighting terrorism within its own borders, Australia's foreign minister said on Monday at the outset of a visit to Islamabad.

Australia, a staunch ally in the US-led war on terror, plans to reinforce US President Barack Obama's message to Islamabad that Pakistan cannot provide safe haven for terrorist forces. Stephen Smith on Monday began the first visit to Pakistan by an Australian foreign minister since 1998 to urge more effort in the fight against the resurgent al-Qaida and the Taliban forces in its border regions, which are a threat to 1,100 Australian troops deployed in neighboring Afghanistan.

Speaking to Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio before he departed Australia on Monday, Smith said he welcomed Pakistan last week passing to India a report on its investigation into the November terrorist attack in the Indian commercial hub of Mumbai that killed 164.

Pakistan also announced that charges had been filed against eight suspects.

"It's quite clear that the LET (Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba) was involved in the terrible attack on Mumbai and the perpetrators themselves have to be brought to justice to build confidence back between India and Pakistan and to start the constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan," Smith told ABC. Indian confidence in it's traditional nuclear-armed foe would be part of the test of whether Pakistan was making inroads against terrorism.

"In very many respects, the test won't be what is Australia's view," Smith said.

Smith will meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza as well as other officials during his visit which is scheduled to end on Wednesday. He noted that Zardari had told CBS television that the Taliban had expanded their presence to a "huge amount" of Pakistan and were even eyeing a takeover of the state.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Pakistan now understands that this terrorist threat is a threat to its own existence as well," Smith said.

He said Australian and Pakistani defense chiefs will meet before July to discuss Australia training more of Pakistan's military officers in counterinsurgency.