London: President Asif Ali Zardari has
spurned an offer to spend the night at British Prime
Minister`s country retreat at Chequers, but is to go ahead
with his meeting with David Cameron to confront his charges of
Pakistan promoting "export of terror" head-on.
Though the `Daily Mail` described the turning down of
invitation as "Zardari`s snub to Cameron", Downing Street
denied that Pakistan President had snubbed the Prime Minister
by refusing to spend the night at the picturesque Chequers.
The decision not to stay at the Chequers was said to
be due to a "diary clash", sources at Downing Street said.
Zardari`s first "face-to-face" meeting with Cameron
over dinner would come after the recently-elected British
leader suggested elements in Pakistan backed "the export of
terror" to its neighbours Afghanistan and India.
The Pakistan President in comments made in Paris
before flying to London had vowed to confront the charges
head-on during his visit here.
"I will explain face to face that it is my country
that is paying the highest price in human life for this war,"
he told the French Daily `Le Monde`.
The meeting at the informal dinner would come amid
continuing diplomatic tensions between the two countries, with
officials hoping that the strains would be eased.
Zardari will travel again to Chequers tomorrow for
formal talks between the two. Besides the diplomatic row, the
Pakistan President visit here has been clouded by a clamour
back home that he cut short what Pakistani opposition parties
are calling a "joy ride".
A number of Pakistani-origin lawmakers in UK have
refused to meet Zardari, saying that he should have cancelled
his visit as his country was reeling under worst-ever floods.
Zardari met Conservative party chairperson Baroness
Sayeeda Warsi, and is scheduled to meet Home secretary Theresa
Political observers say that Zardari speaking to
former Prime Minister Gordon Brown on phone yesterday, before
meeting Cameron, amounted to a diplomatic slight.
Referring to the storm caused by Cameron`s statement
in India about Pakistan`s stand on terrorism, Warsi wrote in
The Sun today: "What seems to have been lost in the headlines
is that Pakistan is a friend of the UK.
And a friendship is meaningless unless you can be
honest with each other. It is absurd to deny that Pakistan has
a problem with extremism and terror inside its country."
She added: "Raising this issue and speaking candidly
about it is the very least that a true friend can do."
Meanwhile, Pakistan`s cricketer-turned-politician
Imran Khan`s party is organising a protest in Birmingham on
Saturday, when Bilawal Bhutto is scheduled to take over the
reins of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party from his father.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf UK coordinator Rabia Zia
said: "Pakistanis are struggling to cope with the worst floods
in 80 years while the `elected` President starts a 5-day visit
to the UK using the taxpayers money. This is the height of
The remarks of British Prime Minister in India over
Pakistan promoting "export of terror" has sparked a diplomatic
row between the Islamabad and London.
The British Prime Minster had said, "There has been
and still is a problem of terror groups in Pakistan that
threaten other countries.
"[They] also threaten our troops in Afghanistan,
threaten India and threaten us in the UK, and need to be
dealt with," Cameron said.
Cameron in public remarks in Bangalore had said, "We
cannot tolerate in any sense that this country (Pakistan) is
allowed to look both ways and is able in any way to promote
the export of terror."