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India, Pakistan ministers discuss anti-terrorism fight

TRIESTE, Italy (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan met in Italy to discuss terrorism and strained ties on Friday, in the second high-level bilateral talks since November’s Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks at a news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (not pictured) at the foreign ministry in Islamabad, January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed/Files

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi described the talks between the two nuclear rivals as a friendly and “fair exchange,” and told reporters that discussions included the fight against terrorism.

“I think both sides realise that they have a common interest, a common enemy and they have to move on in a cooperative environment,” Qureshi said, in the northern city of Trieste.

“We have to engage to defeat the designs of terrorists.”

Pakistan has been pushing for the resumption of five-year-long peace talks broken off by India after the attacks on Mumbai. New Delhi blames the attacks on Pakistan-based militants and wants Islamabad to act against them.

The United States is keen for both countries to resume talks to ease tensions on Pakistan’s eastern border with India, so it can focus on fighting Taliban militants on its western border with Afghanistan.

In an interview with Reuters before the talks, Qureshi said Pakistan aimed to prosecute those behind the Mumbai attacks.

“We will do our utmost to take them to court, and if we can put together a legally tenable case, we would want them prosecuted and we would want them convicted,” he said.

Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna acknowledged that bilateral ties have remained “under considerable stress”.

He said an upcoming meeting of Pakistani and Indian foreign secretaries would look at cooperation on terrorism.

“It will enable us to take stock of where we stand on the issue of terrorism and the fulfilment by Pakistan of its assurance that its territory would not be used for terrorist attacks on India,” Krishna said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of a regional summit in Russia this month.

They agreed that their foreign secretaries would meet again and that the leaders of the two countries would hold further talks on the sidelines of a summit in Egypt in July.