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Britain to unfreeze defence ties with Pakistan: envoy

   ISLAMABAD, Jan 4 (Internews): Britain is moving to unfreeze its defence
 ties with Pakistan, put on hold since the military seized power in
 Islamabad in late 1999, London's ambassador to Islamabad has said ahead
 of Tony Blair's visit to Pakistan on January 7.
 "With the warming up of political relations between the United Kingdom
 and Pakistan, the defence cooperation between the two will be further
 invigorated," British High Commissioner Hilary Synnott said in an
 interview published by The Nation newspaper here Friday.
 "After October 1999, the defence ties between the two countries had
 frozen but a lot has happened since then. Now we are reinvigorating our
 defence cooperation with Pakistan," he added.
 Synnott said his country supported the reform agenda of the Pervez
 Musharraf government and appreciated the important support to
 international coalition against terrorism.
 "We recognise the financial, commercial and internal problems concerning
 Pakistan while offering support to the coalition. We want to help
 Pakistan," he said.
 Synnott said Britain was also cooperating with Pakistan in legal and
 commercial matters.
 "We have formed an advisory to advise us on how best to go forward for
 improving commercial ties. The UK being a member of the EU will help
 provide Pakistan access to this forum. If it works, it will help both
 the countries."
 The high commissioner said during the last 10 years his country had made
 one-fourth new investment in Pakistan. "The UK is the biggest single
 investor in Pakistan during the last few years."
 He said Britain's new development programme in Pakistan had been four
 times the size of the preceding year's programme. "
 But we still attach importance to elections and democracy and hope that
 President Musharraf will adhere to the timeframe [for scheduled
 elections in October this year]."
 About the Pakistan's concern of high freight insurance, he said they
 could not handle this, as it was not in the hands of the government.
 However, he said with the political situation calming down the rates
 would also come down.
 Asked why Pakistan had been singled out as a war-risk country in the
 region, he said without elaborating: "This is not a political decision."
 On the current situation in the region, he said South Asia was important
 for Britain. "In fact, it has become intensely important in global terms
 after 1998. We are trying our best to avoid war in the region."
 About Afghanistan, Synnott said matters are progressing well. "[Afghan
 interim leader Hamid] Karzai and [UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan
 Lakhdar] Brahimi should be given credit for this."
 On reconstruction in Afghanistan, he said: "It is never easy to part
 with money. But it will happen. Tony Blair has already said we will not
 repeat the past mistakes [of abandoning Afghanistan]." -Internews


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