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Britain promises Pakistan aid

Pledged funds will help tackle terrorism

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, left, greets his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sunday.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, left, greets his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sunday.

B.K.Bangash, Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged more counterterrorism help to Pakistan on Sunday, revealing that three-quarters of terror plots investigated in Britain linked back to al-Qaida supporters in the country.

Brown traveled to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan over the weekend to visit British troops and bolster cooperation between India and Pakistan in the wake of the deadly Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people.

But his strongest message was delivered to Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, whose wife Benazir Bhutto died last year in an attack launched by extremists.

Zardari faces a daunting challenge of tackling poverty and extremism in Pakistan as he tries to shore up support in the tribal regions and within his own government. Bhutto repeatedly alleged that Pakistan's security services had long-standing ties to extremist elements.

"The time has come for action and not words, and I want to help Pakistan and other countries root out terrorism," Brown told reporters in a joint news conference with Zardari.

Britain would offer Pakistan counter-terrorism equipment for detecting bombs and explosives at airports. It would also contribute $9 million to lure youths away from extremist activities by offering them educational materials and programs.

Brown discussed similar assistance with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier Sunday, including a better system for sharing intelligence.

Although British and American intelligence agencies helped thwart a trans-Atlantic airliner attack in 2006 — a plot that had links to Pakistan — fewer success stories have been attributed to intelligence information out of Pakistan or India.

The nuclear rivals fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 — two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, whose status has emerged as a recurrent theme in the radicalization of young British Muslims.

Despite a peace process that began in 2004, tensions remain high and intelligence sharing has been limited.

India has blamed the Mumbai attacks on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba Islamic group, straining relations even further.

Brown echoed the assertion, saying the group has long been on Britain's radar.

Abdullah Ghaznavi, Lashkar's chief spokesman, denied the allegation, saying his group targets Indian defense forces and installations to force India out of Kashmir.

"We reject the claim of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and urge him to independently investigate this matter instead of relying on false and fabricated evidence provided by India," Ghaznavi told The Associated Press in a call Sunday from an undisclosed location.

"This is a jihad and it will continue," he added.

He also claimed his group has "no direct or indirect links" with the Taliban or al-Qaida.

"We neither finance them nor support them," he said.

Brown said there was a "chain of terror" emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"I told President Zardari that three fourths of the most serious terror plots investigated by British authorities have links to al-Qaida in Pakistan," he said.

Britain has a large South Asian population. Most of its some 2 million Muslims are of Pakistani or Kashmiri origin.

The British suicide bombers who killed 52 London commuters in 2005 had family links to Pakistan, and Indian-born Dhiren Barot was jailed in Britain in 2006 over plots to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, other U.S. financial targets and landmark London hotels.

Barot, who was raised in the U.K. and regarded by British intelligence as a key al-Qaida figure, traveled to Kashmir in 1995 to fight against Indian forces.

Pakistan has also seen recent terror attacks. Some 54 people were killed in September a truck bomb exploded, gutting the Marriott hotel in Islamabad.

"All of us suffer when terrorists are active and are able to impose their will," Brown said.

Brown said he asked Singh if he would allow British authorities to question the only known surviving gunman in the Mumbai massacre, and asked Zardari for similar cooperation with arrested suspects. Neither leader publicly responded to the request.

One British national and two people with dual nationality were killed in the attacks.

According to India, the 10 gunmen — nine of whom were killed — were from Pakistan, as were the handlers, masterminds, weapons, training camps and financing.

Pakistan has arrested some suspected plotters and shut offices of a charity allegedly linked to Lashkar, but it is pressing India to provide evidence to aid in prosecutions.

India now finds itself in the awkward position of potentially having to investigate terrorist attacks hand-in-hand with its longtime nemesis.

Zardari said he hoped India will share more leads once it completed its investigation and saw the Mumbai tragedy as "an opportunity to cooperate with India, to take the relationship with India to another level."

Brown arrived in India following a visit Saturday to Afghanistan, where he met with some of Britain's 8,200 troops and hinted that Britain would provide more — an announcement expected Monday.

He said fighting the Taliban had kept Europe's streets safer.

Al-Qaida and Taliban militants have found safe havens on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, to the chagrin of U.S. and NATO leaders who fear the insurgents are using those sanctuaries to plot attacks on their troops in Afghanistan.

Improving the border security "is in all our interest" Brown said.