Landmines not answer to border problem, MacKay tells Pakistan

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay told Pakistan on Tuesday that Canada opposes its plan to mine its border with Afghanistan to curb Taliban attacks.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay told Pakistan on Tuesday that Canada opposes its plan to lay mines along its border with Afghanistan to stop the Taliban from launching attacks on NATO troops.

MacKay said at a news conference in Islamabad that Canada is willing to help Pakistan improve its border security with Afghanistan by training guards and using aerial surveillance of the region, but it is opposed to its plan touse mines to curtail movement by militants.

Pakistan also intends to build barbed wire fences along the border in certain areas.

"We want to be co-operative and we want to be constructive in coming forward with solutions that we think are better alternatives," MacKay said.

Canada is opposed to the landmine plan because of its obligations under the Ottawa Convention signed by the federal government that bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of landmines, MacKay said.

Khursheed Kasuri, MacKay's Pakistanicounterpart who also spoke at the news conference, said Pakistan would consider thesuggestions presented by MacKaybut the country is determined to do something about the border.

"We are not backtracking on our desire to control the border," he said.

The porous, mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a major problem, with Taliban militants based in Pakistan attacking Canadian soldiers trying to pacify the volatile southern Afghan province of Kandahar. Canada has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan.

MacKay said Pakistan has made "great sacrifices and great strides" in trying to prevent the Taliban from crossing over its border to launch attacks on troops in Afghanistan. But he said Pakistan should not see itself as the only country responsible for the problem.

"Nobody in the international community, in my view, would indicate with any degree of fairness that this is Pakistan's problem alone," MacKay said. "That's not reasonable."

European talks

MacKay, after his stops in Pakistan and Afghanistan this week, headed to Europe on Tuesday for talks with European officials. MacKay arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan late Monday, after his flight was delayed by 15 minutes because two rockets were fired at the Kandahar base.

MacKay spent two days in Afghanistan, where he announced the federal government will spend $10 million to help pay the salaries of Afghan police.

The money will go toward regular weekly salaries of police officers in an effort to stop corruption and co-operation with the Taliban within the force.

Forty-four Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since Canada sent troops to the troubled country in early 2002.

With files from the Canadian Press