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EU-Pakistan summit

cg/nrt, reuters/afpMay 10, 2009

The European Union presidency plans to hold the bloc's first ever summit with Pakistan in June in an attempt to help strengthen the country's civilian government.

Germany's special envoy Bernard Muetzelburg with Pakistan's Interior Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Germany's special envoy Muetzelburg, left, recently met Pakistan's Interior Minister Mehmood QureshiImage: AP

News agency Reuters quoted an unnamed source at the Czech EU presidency source saying the summit will be held within weeks, with June 17 given as the provisional date.

The fight against terrorism -- including in neighboring Afghanistan -- is expected to top the meeting's agenda, but talks will also include measures to improve trade relations and enhanced cooperation over the rule of law.

"The EU wants to help strengthen the civilian government in Pakistan by showing strong support on the highest level," the EU source said.

In recent months, both the EU and the United States have pushed to boost ties with Pakistan, amid fears of increasing Islamic militancy in the country. Fighting the militant threat in Pakistan is also seen to hold strategic importance to the US-led action in Afghanistan.

Military begins "full-scale offensive"

A traffic jam of cars as refugees flee
Thousands of Swat valley residents are trying to fleeImage: AP

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military has begun a full-scale offensive against a growing domestic Taliban insurgency. In a raid that targeted several militant hideouts, the army claims to have killed 55 militants and destroyed the Taliban's Swat Valley headquarters.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has described the offensive as a "war of the country's survival."

"This is not a normal war. This is a guerrilla war. But it is our resolve, it is the resolve of the army that there should be minimum collateral damage," he said.

But the fighting has prompted hundreds of thousands of residents to flee.

The United Nations' refugee agency estimates more than 200,000 residents have tried to escape fighting in the area in recent days, with a further 300,000 on the move or about to leave. The UN has warned that with those figures, in addition to 555,000 already displaced because of fighting since August, there could be a "massive displacement" of up to one million people.