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NATO-Pakistan Agree Common Afghanistan Approach
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Speaking after talks with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at NATO headquarters in Brussels, NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer said both sides agreed that all parties should step up their efforts to correct things in Afghanistan.

"There is no military answer in Afghanistan. The answer in Afghanistan reads development, reconstruction, where Pakistan also plays a role," he told reporters.

They agree that bilateral efforts to close the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to Taliban sympathizers trying to cross the border to attack NATO and Afghan army troops, the NATO chief said.

Aziz, the most senior Pakistani official to visit NATO headquarters to date, met representatives of NATO's 26 member countries on Tuesday. Discussions focused on Afghanistan, where NATO is leading the 32,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

NATO and Pakistan have shared objectives and are both committed to a strong, stable, peaceful Afghanistan, Aziz told reporters afterwards.

"Pakistan is committed to a strong, stable Afghanistan," said the prime minister. "The one country that will benefit the most, after Afghanistan itself, will be Pakistan," he said.

Aziz stressed that a strategy helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan return to their homeland was urgently needed. There are currently three million Afghan refugees in numerous refugee camps in Pakistan's border area, which provide rich traipsing grounds for terrorist recruiters.

The international community should focus on reducing drug production in Afghanistan, which is linked to terrorism, he said, noting that this "represents a threat for the whole world."

Highlighting the importance of Afghan economic development, Aziz said both Pakistan and Afghanistan needed the world community's support in terms of market access, to create jobs and to improve the economies, contributing directly to regional peace.

Aziz said he hoped Tuesday's consultations would be the beginning of better political dialogue with NATO.

Pakistan and NATO have been steadily increasing cooperation since October 2005, since NATO launched a large operation to help aid victims of the devastating earthquake that struck the country.

Pakistani, Afghan and NATO authorities are working together in a joint commission on military and security issues in Afghanistan. Recently, a joint Afghan, ISAF and Pakistani intelligence center was opened in Kabul.

(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2007)

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