Cameron, Zardari hold private dinner talks
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and British Prime Minister David Cameron met for private talks late Thursday amid continuing tension over Cameron's criticism of Pakistani attitudes toward terrorism, dpa reported.
The two leaders had a private dinner at Chequers, Cameron's country residence outside London, a week after the British leader made his controversial remarks. They are due to hold formal talks Friday.
Ahead of Thursday's dinner, the British government expressed confidence that the planned meetings would "reinforce the strong links" between the two countries.
A spokesman stressed that the discussions would cover "the full range of shared interests."
Relations have been strained by the British premier's suggestion last week that "elements" in Pakistan were promoting terrorism.
They should not be allowed to "promote the export of terror, whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world," Cameron said during a visit to India.
Zardari has said he would do some "plain talking" with Cameron and "educate" him about the realities of the terrorist threat and the struggle against militants in Pakistan.
"The war against terrorism must unite and not oppose us. I will explain face-to-face that it is my country that is paying the highest price in human life for this war," Zardari said after a meeting with French leaders earlier this week in Paris.
Zardari has said he wants to "challenge" Cameron over his remarks. The British government spokesman said Cameron was "looking forward" to welcoming the Pakistani president.
"It is an important opportunity to reinforce the strong links between the UK and Pakistan and continue to support stability, security, democracy and prosperity in Pakistan," the spokesman said.
The talks would include the international response to severe flooding in northern Pakistan, cooperation in countering terrorism and violent extremism, the Afghanistan conflict and trade.
On terrorism, the leaders were expected "to discuss the threat, review ongoing efforts and explore what more can be done."
Zardari has been criticized at home and in Britain for continuing the visit while Pakistan struggles with the worst floods in 81 years in its north-western region.
On Thursday, Zardari held private talks with Theresa May, the home secretary in the new Conservative-Liberal government. He discussed further cooperation in education with Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Cooperation between the two countries' intelligence services in the fight against terrorism and Britain's plan to place a limit on immigration from outside the European Union were believed to have dominated the talks between Zardari and May.
It emerged that Zardari had telephoned Wednesday with Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, and David Miliband, the former foreign secretary who is now the prime contender for the Labour Party leadership.
Miliband has severely criticized Cameron's remarks on Pakistan's attitudes to terrorism, a topic believed to have been at the centre of Zardari's conversations with him and Brown.