NATIONAL

India, Pak. figure in Blair-Putin talks

LONDON JUNE 26 . The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said today that India and Pakistan figured in his talks with the visiting Russian President, Vladimir Putin, here this morning, but did not give details.The deployment of Indian and Pakistani troops in Iraq was believed to have been the context for the discussion as Mr. Blair repeatedly emphasised the need for the international community to cooperate in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq. He had also raised the issue with the Indian Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, when the two met here recently, and on Wednesday Mr. Blair told the Commons that 19 to 20 more countries were expected to send their troops to Iraq in the next few weeks.

Mr. Blair, who was speaking at a joint press conference after his talks with Mr. Putin, said the new U.N. resolution provided the basis for the world community to work together to build a "democratic", "stable" and "prosperous" Iraq. In remarks that were seized by India watchers to interpret as a reference to Indian concerns over cross-border terrorism, Mr. Blair warned against the threat from terrorism and rise of "religious extremism".

"The issue is high on the consciousness of the international community after the recent interaction which the Indian Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister had with world leaders, including Mr. Putin and Mr. Blair," an Indian source said.

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