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British ministers discuss counter-terrorism

world Updated: Oct 05, 2009 10:33 IST

Britain's home and defence secretaries arrived in Islamabad on Monday for talks with Pakistani leaders on counter-terrorism and defence in the insurgent-plagued nation, officials said.

British Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth will meet with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and other top ministers in the two-day visit.

"The talks will focus on ways to promote cooperation in counter-terrorism and defence between the two countries," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.

A statement by the British high commission in Islamabad quoted Ainsworth as saying "a stable and secure Pakistan is a vital goal not just for Pakistan but also for security in Afghanistan and for UK security".

"The UK recognises the efforts and sacrifices that Pakistan is making to bring peace and stability in its northwest border regions," he added.

Pakistan's military has claimed a number of successes against Taliban insurgents this year in and around Swat valley, but attacks continue across the country, mostly in the northwest.

The semi-autonomous northwest tribal belt has become a stronghold for hundreds of extremists who fled Afghanistan after the US-led invasion toppled the hardline Taliban regime in the neighbouring country in late 2001.

Washington alleges that the militants are slipping over the border to stage attacks on some 100,000 foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan, with Britain's 9,000-strong force taking record casualties this year.

"Pakistan has a vital interest in rooting out the militant insurgency, which threatens and undermines its state and the security of its people," Ainsworth said. "We are working together to counter this threat."