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NATO: Pakistani deals emboldening militants

/ Source: The Associated Press

NATO said Wednesday it is seeing a sharp rise in attacks by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan and is concerned the violence is the result of agreements between Pakistani authorities and militants in border regions.

Alliance spokesman James Appathurai said its eastern regional command reported attacks it its area of Afghanistan were up 50 percent in April compared to the same period last year.

"Violent activity of extremists in RC East is up significantly," he told reporters. "There is real concern in NATO that this is at least in part due to agreements that have been struck with militants on the other side of the border which have not been sufficiently effective."

Appathurai said the alliance was taking up the issue of militant safe havens with Pakistani authorities, and said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer aimed to travel to Islamabad soon for talks with the government there.

"Have no doubt that the concerns that NATO/ISAF has over this increase in activity levels has been communicated to the Pakistanis, will continue to be communicated to the Pakistanis," Appathurai said.

Safe havens
Parts of Pakistan's northwest are havens for al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants determined to drive U.S. and other foreign forces out of neighboring Afghanistan. Under the direction of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's previous government relied heavily on military operations against the extremists.

But the new government, led by anti-Musharraf parties elected in February, has opted to also pursue peace negotiations to end the militancy.

"We do not want and do not intend to engage in the internal political activities of Pakistan, but we have every right to and will convey our concerns about what is happening inside Afghanistan."