Britain supports peace talks in Pakistan to fight terror

Britain on Sunday favoured a negotiated settlement to quell terrorism in Pakistan's north-western tribal region, but emphasized that there was no "quick fix" either through military means or dialogue. ( dpa )

"This is a long slow process that needs to engage the hearts and minds of hundreds and thousands of people," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters in Peshawar city, the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Miliband arrived in the provincial capital on Sunday marking the beginning of his two-day visit to Pakistan that aims at holding talks with the recently sworn-in political leadership.

Pakistan held its parliamentary vote on February 18 that was won by opponents of President Pervez Musharraf, a frontline US-ally in the fight against terror.

On Sunday, the British foreign secretary met NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti and Governor Owais Ghani and discussed security issues in the province and its adjoining tribal region bordering Afghanistan that is in the grip of violence lately.

"Across the Afghan-Pakistan border it is an area that is of major interest to the United Kingdom because the origin of the significant amount of terrorism we face had links back to here," Miliband said.

Therefore, he added, Britain wanted to work closely with Pakistani authorities on border issues.

Islamic militants with al-Qaeda and Taliban links in Afghanistan are believed to have found sanctuaries in Pakistan's rugged tribal belt from where they mount cross-border attacks on international forces and Afghan military.

Now, a lull in fighting between Islamic militants and the Pakistani troops is being witnessed as the provincial government, which is dominated by nationalists, has expressed its willingness to hold peace talks.

Clarifying Britain's position on negotiated settlements, Miliband said it was important to reconcile with those people who were willing to renounce violence.

Advocating "a comprehensive approach" to quell militancy, he stressed the need for economic and social improvements with a focus on education, health and infrastructure.

Miliband reiterated Britian's sustained support to the Islamic republic, saying: "We are here not for a quick fix, we are here for a long-term partnership for the country with whom we have very strong cultural, economic and political ties."

Miliband is also scheduled to Musharraf and newly-elected Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani during his trip.

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