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EU foreign policy chief leaves for Pakistan

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Sunday voiced support for democracy and stability in Pakistan as he left for talks with the country's president, Asif Ali Zardari, his office said.

world Updated: Jul 20, 2009 00:50 IST

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Sunday voiced support for democracy and stability in Pakistan as he left for talks with the country's President, Asif Ali Zardari, his office said.

"In his meetings with Pakistan's leaders, Mr Solana will discuss the latest developments in the country and the region," said an EU statement.

"He will express the EU's strong support for democracy in Pakistan as well as for the efforts carried out by the Pakistani authorities to reinforce security throughout the country and strengthen the rule of law and underline the importance of Pakistan for the stability of the whole region."

Solana will meet with Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

He is also to visit a camp of internally displaced people.

The European Union last month pledged aid for the hundreds of thousands of families displaced by a government offensive on the Taliban and vowed to help Islamabad tackle the root causes of extremism.

At a first-ever summit in Brussels, attended by Zardari, senior European Union officials also promised to study future ways to boost commerce with the regime in Pakistan, with the ultimate aim of opening a free trade area.

The summit came amid a massive offensive against the Taliban in the northwest which led some two million people to flee their homes.

As a first step, the European Commission announced it would provide 65 million euros (92 million dollars) in new aid money to provide food, water and shelter to people who fled the Swat valley and other areas.

The offensive is seen as vital to NATO interests amid a battle to beat a Taliban-led insurgency that is undermining the Western alliance's biggest and most ambitious operation ever in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The insurgents, backed by Al-Qaeda and criminal gangs, are using Pakistan's lawless tribal areas as a base, resulting in cross-border shootings involving NATO-led forces or US operated aerial drones.