NATIONAL

Cross-border infiltration down: Kasuri

ISLAMABAD April 9. The Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, has said that international monitoring on the line of control would show that cross-border infiltration had come down considerably and if it continued it was `despite the best efforts of the Pakistan Army and police''.

In an interview to a UN news agency, Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), here Mr. Kasuri said ``if some people are prepared to die despite efforts by the Pakistan Army and police forces, my question to the international community is: there are 250,000 Indian soldiers on the line of control itself. It means there is one soldier for every three metres and, if they can't control the infiltration, how do they expect us to? We are trying to control the movement in the area, and it has been reduced considerably. Our suggestion for international monitoring is there''.

The comments of Mr. Kasuri are in conformity with the statements by various functionaries in the Government from the President, Pervez Musharraf downwards, except on the existence of training camps.

Mr. Kasuri also called for improved security in Afghanistan, as well as a leading role for the UN in a post-Saddam Iraq as the best way of diplomatic bridge-building given the level of international opposition to the war.

He said Pakistan has a big stake in the security of Afghanistan. ``What is important is that Afghanistan very soon develops its own police force and Army. This is absolutely essential for long-term peace and security in the area. We have also offered to train their foreign office staff as a sign of improved relations, and they have accepted our offer.

``One reason why there are security incidents in Afghanistan is because the U.S. has diverted its attention to Iraq, and this was one of the concerns I raised in my recent trip to the U.S. before the war started. Any situation in Afghanistan is bound to have an effect on Pakistan, and we are worried, but there is no cause for alarm yet.

On the recent postponement of the scheduled visit of the Afghanistan President, Hamid Karzai, the Minister said that he was invited for the national day parade, which was cancelled along with many other functions due to the war in Iraq. ``We didn't think it was right to celebrate while people are suffering there. President Karzai himself felt that his visit should be rescheduled due to this situation, and both Presidents talked to each other about this''.

Mr. Kasuri did not agree with the suggestion of the interviewer that despite Pakistan's efforts in cooperation with the U.S. to hunt down Al-Qaeda elements, there are still reports that Taliban members are being recruited from Pakistan.

``There is a great degree of intelligence-sharing, and if such a thing were brought to our notice we would do all it takes to stop that, because it would destabilise the Government in Kabul and the Bonn process. I have been in touch with U.S. diplomats, and they have not raised this as a major issue''.