UK

Pakistan president heads to Europe amid Cameron row

Supporters of Shabab-e-Milli burn an effigy of David Cameron in Karachi 31 July 2010
Image caption An effigy of David Cameron was burnt by protesters in Karachi

Pakistan's president is due in Europe later for a tour taking in the UK, amid tensions over David Cameron's comments about alleged Pakistani terror links.

Pakistani intelligence officials have cancelled a UK visit in protest at Mr Cameron's comments about Pakistan.

PM Yusuf Gilani has weighed in, saying his UK counterpart should discuss such issues via diplomatic channels.

However, Pakistani officials say they expect "fruitful" talks between Asif Ali Zardari and Mr Cameron.

The country's information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said President Zardari's visit would go ahead as planned on Tuesday and relations between the countries remained strong.

BBC correspondent Caroline Hawley said the visit, which will follow one to France, would take place despite "outrage" in Pakistan at Mr Cameron's comments.

His remarks had caused particular offence because they were made in India, Pakistan's bitter rival, our correspondent added.

Speaking to reporters in the southern Indian city of Bangalore on Wednesday, Mr Cameron said: "We should be very, very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan.

"We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world."

His remarks followed the leaking of US documents on the Wikileaks website in which Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was accused of secretly helping the Afghan insurgency.

It has now been reported in Pakistan that the British High Commissioner may be summoned in protest at Mr Cameron's remarks.

In a speech in Punjab province on Saturday, the Pakistani prime minister said while discussing terrorism in India, Mr Cameron should have also condemned "human rights abuses" in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Mr Gilani said that it would be better to discuss international issues through diplomatic sources and added that the government of Pakistan would follow this policy.

Image caption The president's visit will be used to "put the record straight", said the information minister

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said Pakistan had made its position clear but relations between the two countries were strong and they would continue to work together.

Earlier, Mr Kaira said any confusion over Pakistan's commitment to tackling terrorism would be cleared up during the president's visit.

"We will put the record straight and we believe after that the co-operation will keep on going," he said.

Describing Mr Cameron's statement as "a misperception", Mr Kaira said that Mr Zardari would use the opportunity to "explain the facts" to the PM during talks at Chequers on Friday.

On Saturday, opposition politicians in Pakistan urged Mr Zardari to call off his trip, while a number of demonstrators burnt an effigy of Mr Cameron on the streets of Karachi.

Pakistani security sources confirmed the cancellation of their visit was as a direct result of Mr Cameron's comments, which they said had caused much anger within Pakistan's security establishment, government and civil society.

Mr Cameron's spokeswoman insisted he had been talking about Pakistan as a country, not its government.

She said that the main message was for Pakistan to shut "terror groups" down.

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