NATO says Pakistan deal with militants a concern
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO expressed concern on Tuesday after Pakistan signed a pact with Islamists to introduce Islamic law in the northwestern Swat valley to try to take the steam out of a Taliban uprising there.
"We would all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have safe haven," NATO spokesman James Appathuraitold a news briefing.
NATO heads an international force battling Taliban militants in Pakistan's neighbour Afghanistan and Appathurai said he did not know if the pact would make its task more difficult. However, he added: "It is certainly reason for concern."
Appathurai said NATO did not doubt the commitment of the Pakistani government and its President Asif Ali Zardari to fighting extremism. Zardari's wife, Benazir Bhutto, was killed by militants.
He said NATO and Pakistan wanted to deepen their cooperation in the fight against militants.
"But it remains the case, without doubting the good faith of the Pakistani government, that this region is suffering very badly from extremism and we would not want to see that get worse."
An uprising erupted in Swat in 2007, and militants now control the alpine valley just 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Pakistan's capital Islamabad.
The agreement to introduce Islamic law was reached at talks between Islamists and officials of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government in Peshawar on Monday.
The U.S. envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, said on a trip to India on Monday the situation in Swat showed the United States, Pakistan and India faced a common enemy.
(reporting by David Brunnstrom)
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