Pakistani, Afghan Leaders Meet for Security Talks

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Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali (search) arrived Monday in Afghanistan for talks with President Hamid Karzai (search) expected to focus on the stepped-up struggle against Islamic militants along the rugged border between the two countries.

Arriving by a Pakistan International Airlines plane, Jamali was greeted at Kabul's airport by senior Afghan officials including Foreign Minister Abdullah and Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali.

The trip comes amid signs that Pakistan is taking a tougher line against Al Qaeda (search) militants and fighters of the former Taliban regime that Afghanistan says are launching attacks in Afghan territory and then retreating into Pakistan. The rugged tribal areas along the border are also thought to be a possible hiding place of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden.

The meeting also follows a thaw in relations between Pakistan and India, whose rivalry has helped fuel the wars that laid waste to much of Afghanistan over the past quarter-century.

It is Jamali's first official visit to Afghanistan since he took office in late 2002. Afghan officials said security and economic issues would dominate the talks.

The visit comes "at an important juncture in time as both countries continue to actively combat terrorism and work toward building up a secure, stable and prosperous region," Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said.

"Afghan leaders will express their desire to boost relations and cooperation across the board," Samad said in a statement.

In the past week, bloody attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan have left at least 36 people dead, most of them civilians.

Before departing Pakistan, Jamali appealed for all factions in Afghanistan to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan and said Pakistan would support the country's reconstruction. He also told reporters that Pakistan would not allow anybody to use its soil for any kind of "wrong activity" in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has deployed thousands of troops to the border, but says the mountainous frontier is too long and remote to be sealed completely. About 15-20 suspected Al Qaeda terrorists taking refuge in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan eluded capture in a Pakistani military operation Thursday.

Relations have also been soured by disputes over where the border runs.

Afghanistan has welcomed the recent Pakistani border operations, and also condemned two attempts last month on the life of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, which have been blamed on Islamic militants.

On the eve of the two-day trip, Jamali ordered the release of 149 Afghans from Pakistani jails as a goodwill gesture, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reported.

Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and the civil war which followed, meaning many still have family ties across the border.

But diplomatic relations are uneasy because of Pakistan's previous strong backing for the Taliban. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Pakistan withdrew its support and has become a key American ally.