Bush calls for Pak-Afghan talks on militants
US President George W Bush said yesterday he understood Afghanistan's anger at attacks by Islamist militants based on the border with Pakistan but urged talks to resolve the "testy situation."
"We can help calm the situation down and develop a strategy that will prevent these extremists from developing safe haven and having freedom of movement," he said after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
"There can be more dialogue between the Pak (eds: correct) government and the Afghan government," said Bush, who was on a farewell trip to Europe. "There needs to be better cooperation."
The US leader stopped short of endorsing Afghan President Hamid Karzai's warning of possible cross-border strikes at militants in Pakistan but said he understood the frustration in Kabul.
"It's a testy situation there, and if I'm a president of a country and people are coming from one country to another, allegedly from one country to another, to kill innocent civilians on my side I'd be concerned about it," said Bush.
The US leader also called for a for a new "jirga" or traditional council of tribal leaders in the region to tackle the issue, saying: "That'd be a good idea to restart the jirga process."
"There's a lot of common ground," he said. "It's in no-one's interest that extremists have a safe haven from which to operate."
"Our strategy is to deny safe haven to extremists who would do harm to innocent people. And that's the strategy of Afghanistan, it needs to be the strategy of Pakistan. It's in all our interests," he said.
Karzai said Sunday that Afghanistan would be justified to attack Taliban insurgents on the soil of his supposed ally in the US-led "war on terror," saying his war-torn country had a right to do so in self-defence.
As anger mounted in Islamabad, hundreds of Afghan tribesmen rallied on their side of the porous 1,500-mile (2,500-kilometre) frontier to voice their support for Karzai's tough stance.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement that he would "like to make it absolutely clear that Pakistan shall defend its territorial sovereignty."
Qureshi described Karzai's comments as "irresponsible".
The row is the most serious since Pakistan abandoned its support for the hardline Taliban movement and backed the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
The volatile situation on the border was highlighted last week when Pakistan accused "cowardly" US-led coalition forces of killing 11 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike in a lawless tribal region.