(AFP) – Sep 26, 2008
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — World powers held a first meeting on Pakistan here Friday and pledged development aid as a means of stabilizing the restive, nuclear-armed South Asian country.
The foreign ministers of Pakistan's major donors agreed to form a partnership with Islamabad "to develop a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the security, development, and political needs of the border."
They acknowledged the need for Pakistan "to undertake serious economic reform and agreed to look at improved trade access for Pakistan to their markets," according to a statement issued at the end of the meeting.
The so-called "Friends of Pakistan" also agreed to encourage private sector involvement in Pakistan's development.
The "Friends of Pakistan" groups Britain, France, Germany, the United States, China, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Turkey, Australia and Italy plus the United Nations and the European Union.
"I hope that the president and the Pakistani people were assured today that the international community will be by their side as they take difficult decisions and work for a more stable and prosperous Pakistan," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the meeting.
Her British counterpart David Milliband said the meeting sent "a very strong signal of political support and also practical support to the democratically elected government of Pakistan."
And German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, outlined conditions in his country.
"Internal stability in Pakistan is the key to security and stability in the region," the minister, who is also Germany's vice-chancellor, said.
"That is why the group of countries that met was prepared to help with internal stabilization, at first economically and then by helping to improve conditions in the educational system and government institutions," he added.
Steinmeier said the UAE had invited members to join a further meeting at the end of October in Abu Dhabi.
The meeting was held on the margins of the UN General Assembly session, a day after US military officials said Pakistani and US troops had exchanged fire along the Pakistani-Afghan border after two US military helicopters came under fire.
Tensions are also running high in the border region in the face of a growing insurgency by Taliban extremists supported from sanctuaries inside Pakistan's tribal areas.
Increased US missile strikes and a reported raid into Pakistan earlier this month by US special operations forces have further strained relations between the United States and its erstwhile ally, Pakistan.
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