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Pakistani, Afghan, Iraqi leaders discuss scourge of suicide bombing at world forum
Switzerland World E 5387236
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf speaks during a working session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday Jan. 24, 2008. Climate change topped the agenda as well as pursuing a workable peace process in the Middle East and how technology is ushering in a new age of social networking that knows no borders. - photo by Associated Press
    DAVOS, Switzerland — Fears of world recession briefly took a back seat Thursday at the World Economic Forum, where leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq focused on how to establish security in their volatile regions.
    Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said poverty — especially when paired with illiteracy — was the key breeding ground for suicide bombers. Barham Saleh, deputy prime minister of Iraq, described terrorism in his country as ‘‘efforts by extremists to hijack my religion.’’
    Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose country has recently seen an upsurge in suicide bombings, said the practice ‘‘isn’t religious, it’s criminal.’’
    Musharraf pledged to battle the ‘‘scourge’’ of radicalism in regions bordering Afghanistan. And he said he would do his utmost to ensure Pakistani elections next month would be fair.
    Saleh suggested that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq indefinitely.
    ‘‘Our expectation is that we would need the Americans in a supporting role ... for some time to come,’’ he said. Iraq needs America as a guarantor of security to act against ‘‘regional predators,’’ he said.
    On Wednesday, the opening day of the annual meeting, the focus was the global economy and roiling stock markets as fears grew that the U.S. economic downturn would spread around the world.
    Still, concerns about economic damage from a U.S. subprime mortgage crisis were bound to resurface at the five-day meeting of 2,500 government, business and academic leaders in the Swiss Alps.
    Thursday began with an early morning session where former Vice President Al Gore and U2 front man Bono offered measured praise for efforts in tackling climate change and global poverty, but warned that conditions were not improving as much as they could.
    Addressing several hundred people, Gore said the ascension of Kevin Rudd as prime minister of Australia and his signing of the Kyoto Protocol helped show how climate change had become a major concern.
    He also said ‘‘little bit of progress’’ had been made tackling the issue at the climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, last month.
    But Gore warned the crisis was worsening.
    ‘‘We could take the whole session talking just about the new scientific evidence of the last few weeks and months,’’ said Gore, who shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to fight climate change. The ‘‘climate crisis is significantly worse and unfolding more rapidly,’’ he added.
    Bono, a vocal and prominent advocate of reducing poverty by providing debt relief to African nations and increasing efforts to treat and prevent AIDS, had similar comments.
    ‘‘There are now 2 million Africans on retroviral drugs and that is pretty astonishing,’’ Bono said, wearing his trademark orange sunglasses.
    But, he added, the Group of Eight are not on track to deliver an additional $50 billion a year in aid by 2010 as promised at their 2005 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland. He said they had only delivered half the aid needed to keep their pledges to Africa.
    He did note other more encouraging signs.
    He said German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told him she would press for recommitment, and that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had told him earlier this month that he would try to keep France’s commitments to the poorest of the poor.
    Musharraf spoke at a later event as the Pakistani army was reporting that troops backed by helicopters and artillery attacked suspected militant hideouts in tribal areas close to the Afghan border, killing 40 rebels and arresting 30. At least eight soldiers also died.
    The Pakistani leader, who recently gave up his position as the country’s top general, said terrorism needed to be rooted out as part of his plan to stabilize a country that was rocked by last month’s assassination of former Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
    ‘‘We have to attack al-Qaida. We have to eliminate al-Qaida. We have to deal with the militant Taliban,’’ he said. At the same time, he said the situation in his country had to be stabilized before any full-scale assault on radical elements.
    He urged Westerners at the forum to try to understand what his government has accomplished by looking at the economic performance and the well-being of Pakistanis.
    ‘‘Please don’t judge the country on idealistic, maybe unrealistic, Western perceptions of democracy and human rights,’’ he said.
    Associated Press writer Matt Moore contributed to this report.

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