US will help stop smugglers

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The Independent Online

America planned to help Pakistan stop smugglers from trucking weapons across the border to Afghanistan and might train Pakistani police to control Muslim extremists, the US ambassador to Pakistan said yesterday.

The two projects are said to have the enthusiastic support of the Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf. Wendy Chamberlin, US ambassador to Pakistan, said General Musharraf understands "you are not going to solve the problem in Afghanistan without solving the social problems in Pakistan".

Ms Chamberlin, who took over as ambassador in mid-August, said: "There has been a sea change in our co-operation. He [General Musharraf] wants to reduce the influence of extremism.

"He views Pakistan as a victim of violence, as a victim of terrorism itself.

"This is what he would like to tackle, to get control and eliminate it within Pakistan."

For the former general, who seized power in a coup in 1999 and has since appointed himself President, joining the Allies was "a way of cauterising the violence spreading from Afghanistan into Pakistan", Ms Chamberlin said.

The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is 2,400 kilometres long. While General Musharraf's government had tried to close it, smuggling persisted, Ms Chamberlin said.

Young Pakistan men and others who were trying to join Taliban fighters were being stopped at the border when caught. "We have repeated assurances that items such as fuel are banned. Weapons, of course, are banned," she said.

Ms Chamberlin said there were autonomous regions where the US was trying to help halt military shipments.

General Musharraf had banned the use of mosques for political propaganda, but he needed a more effective police force to enforce the ban, Ms Chamberlin said. "And this is where we can help."