Asia Crisis

NATO urges Pakistan to prevent Afghanistan spillover

BERLIN, May 27 (Reuters) - NATO's secretary-general urged Pakistan on Tuesday to prevent a spillover of violence from its border region into Afghanistan and called for stronger political dialogue between Pakistan and the U.S.-led alliance.

Faced with a wave of suicide attacks, Pakistan has begun negotiations with Taliban militants who control much of the mountainous region on its side of the border with Afghanistan and thinned out the number of troops in the area.

But NATO's force in Afghanistan has said the peace talks have led to an increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan.

"It is...important for Afghanistan's neighbours to be involved in a constructive manner and especially for Pakistan to prevent spillover across its border with Afghanistan," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told members of NATO's parliamentary assembly at a meeting in Berlin.

"It is of great importance that the alliance establishes and increases its political dialogue with Pakistan," Scheffer said, adding he hoped to travel to Pakistan in the autumn.

"I hope to discuss this in a very constructive spirit," he said. "The right approach is to consider Pakistan as part of the solution, not part of the problem ... It's important that apart from military dialogue, to have serious political dialogue."

Afghan forces, backed by more than 60,000 foreign troops, are engaged in daily battles with Taliban militants, mostly in the south and east, the areas closest to the border.

A Pakistani government official said on Monday Pakistan was determined to stop militants crossing to fight Western troops in Afghanistan and is activating tribal leaders to squeeze out the militants.

Afghan officials have often accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven from which to direct and launch attacks and also rest and regroup.

Many al Qaeda and Taliban militants fled to Pakistan's border lands, that have never come under the full control of any government, after U.S-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. (Reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich; Editing by Richard Balmforth)