EU Delegation Touring Pakistan, Middle East
A European Union (EU) delegation arrived Tuesday in Pakistan on the first leg of a tour that will also take them to Iran and three Arab countries, in a bid to bolster participation in an international coalition against terrorism, said reports.
The delegation, led by foreign policy chief Javier Solana, will also visit Iran, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, according to the official Iranian news agency (IRNA).
The other high-ranking members in the EU delegation include Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, EU High Commissioner in Foreign Affairs Chris Patten, according to an EU statement, cited by the agency.
In Pakistan, the delegation is expected to discuss humanitarian aid and enhanced economic cooperation with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, AFP said.
Speaking on the plane before the team's arrival, Patten congratulated Musharraf for his "brave" support for the US-led war on terrorism following the suicide hijackings in New York and Washington on September 11.
"We recognize the brave decision which President Musharraf and the people of Pakistan have taken," he told reporters.
Patten said the delegation would seek further assurances of Pakistan's commitment to end terrorism without forgetting the country's economic and humanitarian needs.
"Good can come from evil and I very much hope that one effect of what's happened is that we will be able to open up new doors and new opportunities," he said, referring to Pakistan and neighboring Iran.
In exchange for Pakistan's cooperation with possible attacks against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Washington Monday waived nuclear-related sanctions imposed in the 1990s.
The US government also rescheduled some $379 million in Pakistani debt and interest repayments.
Islamabad will be seeking the EU's backing in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a request for some $2.5 billion in loans, AFP said.
A diplomatic source told AFP that the EU would offer humanitarian aid amid fears of a refugee crisis if the United States attacks Afghanistan, with more than a million people believed to have fled their homes in the past two weeks.
Pakistan already hosts around two million Afghan refugees and the number has swelled by 180,000 since September last year.
The mission follows an emergency summit of EU leaders on Friday that called for a broad global coalition against terrorism, and supported as "legitimate" US plans to strike back, reported IRNA.
"It's not a fight or a battle against a particular religion or particular countries - on the contrary," Solana told reporters Monday after he conferred with NATO Secretary General George Robertson in Brussels.
"That's the reason why we're doing so many efforts, from the European Union, to get as many countries of the Arab World with us as possible," IRNA quoted him as saying – Albawaba.com
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