Pakistani Leader in Paris, to Discuss Afghan War

PARIS -- Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, facing questions about his country's role in Afghanistan, turns to France for support in talks Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy expected to focus on fighting terrorism and sharing intelligence.

Zardari arrived in France on Sunday night, as his government was coming under criticism for its handling of deadly flooding in the northwest of the country. The worst floods in the country's history have already killed up to 1,100 people and forced 2 million to flee their homes.

Zardari leaves Paris Tuesday for talks in London with top British officials, amid a diplomatic spat over comments by Britain's prime minister suggesting the South Asian nation exports terrorism.

Pakistan, which shares a porous land border with troubled Afghanistan, has long been considered a key player in the fight against terrorism, and a report in Le Figaro daily said France and Pakistan are working to hammer out the details of a deal on increased intelligence-sharing between the two nations.

The deal is expected to be ready by October, in time for a Paris visit by the Pakistani prime minister, the report said.

France is one of the biggest contributors to the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan, and is sending 250 more trainers to the country to bring the overall French force to 4,000 people.

Pakistan and its role in Afghanistan have been in the spotlight for more than a week, since Wikileaks, the self-described online whistle-blower, posted leaked U.S. military documents that revived questions about Pakistan's willingness to sever its historical ties to the Taliban and deny Taliban fighters sanctuary along the border between the two nations.

The thorny nuclear issue is also expected to be on the agenda at Sarkozy and Zardari's meeting. France is a major exporter of civil nuclear technology and has struck recent deals with such countries as Libya and the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan suffers from chronic power shortages and is eager to develop its nuclear energy sector, but has refused to sign nonproliferation accords and faces a nuclear trade ban.

Pakistani Embassy officials say Zardari will also meet with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and visit an exhibition of Pakistani art at Paris' Guimet Museum, accompanied by Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand.