September 12, 2005

Pakistan offers to erect Afghan border fence

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fed up with accusations it allows
Taliban fighters to cross into Afghanistan, Pakistan offered on
Monday to erect a fence between the two countries to prevent
incursions from either side.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made the offer during
talks in New York with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said
after the 75-minute meeting.

Musharraf and Rice are among scores of foreign leaders and
ministers in New York for a U.N. summit. Musharraf is expected
to meet U.S. President George W. Bush later this week.

"Pakistan is prepared to raise a fence so that we can put
an end to these allegations," Kasuri told reporters, without
specifying exactly where and when a fence could be erected, how
long it would be, or who would pay for it.

"Pakistan can do nothing more than that to prevent
incursions," he said of proposals for a fence, adding: "We are
fed up of people who say we have to do more."

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been
strained because of complaints from the government in Kabul
that Islamabad could do more to stop Taliban fighters
infiltrating from Pakistan's tribal areas.

The United States has also wanted to see Pakistan act
against Taliban insurgents harassing U.S. forces in Afghanistan
in the run up to parliamentary elections on September 18, which
are being held nearly four years after U.S.-led troops toppled
the Taliban government for giving refuge to Osama bin Laden.


Kasuri said Rice "heard out the offer" to erect a fence,
adding that she had been "very appreciative" of the role played
by Pakistan before the elections in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has sent thousands of troops to its western border
to choke off a Taliban-led insurgency in the weeks before the

Kasuri said Afghanistan had not responded to Pakistan's
offer to build a fence, which he said could be erected in areas
where incursions were most likely to occur.

The State Department confirmed the fence had been discussed
in the context of securing the Pakistan-Afghan border areas.

"We all need to do everything we can to deal with the
problem along the border and deal with the moving back and
forth by Taliban and others," a State Department official said
on condition of anonymity.

He said a fence and other ideas to secure the border areas
needed to be discussed further between Afghanistan, Pakistan
and the United States.

Pakistan recently opened up diplomatic channels with Israel
after a widely publicized meeting of the foreign ministers of
the two countries in Istanbul on September 1. Kasuri said Rice
had said she was "pleasantly surprised" by the gesture.

Kasuri said Pakistan welcomed Israel's evacuation from Gaza
and had felt this was a move his country wanted to acknowledge.
"We will monitor the progress on the creation of a viable
Palestinian state and our future actions will be guided by
that," he said of future relations with Israel."