ABU DHABI: French President Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to visit Pakistan this autumn to show backing for President Asif Ali Zardari in his fight against Taliban insurgents, a French official said here Monday.
“We really want to help President Zardari,” said the French official who was accompanying Sarkozy on a visit to the United Arab Emirates where he was on Monday to open France's first permanent military base in the Gulf.
The official said he was “quite agreeably surprised by the firmness of the president and the loyalty of the army.”
A month ago the Pakistani army launched a vast operation in the northwestern Swat Valley to mop up fighters linked to Al-Qaeda who had come close to the capital Islamabad, resulting in more than two million refugees fleeing the combat zone, according to the United Nations.
“If Pakistan does not succeed, it will get very complicated in Afghanistan and that would mean that the (Pakistani) nuclear power would fall into the hands of the Taliban. The stakes are very high,” the French official said.
Sarkozy's visit would also be an opportunity to outline cooperation in civil nuclear energy that Sarkozy proposed to Zardari during his recent visit to Paris, the official said.
“France must invest diplomatically, politically and economically in Pakistan,” he stressed. AGENCIES