Britain agrees that cross-border incursions by US forces into Pakistan "didn’t help", President Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday, as he sought London’s help in a simmering row with Washington.
Speaking after talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he said Britain had a better understanding of Pakistan than other countries, and voiced the hope that Brown could influence others.
"He’s very much aware and he understands Pakistan’s situation, and the fact that he wants to help the democracy — and the situation doesn’t help democracy — I think answers it," he told reporters after the talks in London.
He declined to comment on whether Brown thought the raids were wrong, but said: "He did agree that they didn’t help".
President Zardari said he did not believe the United States would carry out any more cross-border raids into Pakistan.
Asked if Pakistani troops had been authorised to fire on US soldiers if they staged any more cross-border raids, Zardari told reporters in London: "I don’t think there will be any more." He did not elaborate.
Earlier, Brown said in a joint statement with Zardari that Pakistan and Afghanistan must take the lead in clamping down on extremism along their border, although the international community can help.
"The prime minister and President Zardari agreed that the UK and Pakistan had a shared agenda in tackling violent extremism in both countries," they said in a statement issued by Brown’s Downing Street office.
They noted "a particularly acute problem with extremism emanating from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region. This had an impact on Pakistan as much as anywhere else, but was also impacting on UK forces in Afghanistan."
It said Britain and Pakistan had agreed to enhance cooperation against violent extremism and radicalisation, but did not say how.
Zardari said cooperation would be improved through more interaction and understanding, suggesting Britain could help other countries understand Pakistan’s view.
Brown said last week that a "new strategy" was needed for Pakistan’s Afghan border areas, to prevent extremists crossing back and forth across the frontier to attack Nato-led forces.
"What’s happening on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan is something where we need to develop a new strategy," he told a monthly press conference last Thursday.
"We are trying to prevent people from moving back and forward."
But on Tuesday he and Zardari said "it was for the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to lead the efforts to combat this extremism, with the support of the international community.
"In this context, the prime minister welcomed the early meeting between Presidents Zardari and (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai and the prospect of improved practical co-operation between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan on their mutual vulnerability to violent extremism," they said.
President Zardari was assisted at the talks by Adviser to Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik, Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan and senior chancery officials.
At the onset, the British prime minister congratulated President Zardari on his election and welcomed this as a significant step in Pakistan’s democratic transition.
They discussed the bilateral relationship, as well as regional and international issues and agreed to strengthen cooperation in various fields, including trade, defence, health and education.
The president will return to Pakistan on Thursday to address the joint sitting of parliament.