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Britain’s Brown Urges Pakistan To Step Up Antiterror Efforts

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on Pakistan to take tougher action against Al-Qaeda and step up its efforts to track down the group's leader, Osama bin Laden.

Brown said the efforts of British and coalition forces in Afghanistan to tackle the Taliban insurgency needed to be matched by more effective action by the Pakistan government and forces on their side of the border.

"Brown called President [Asif Ali] Zardari yesterday, he expressed support for what Pakistani forces are doing against the Pakistani Taliban, but said he wanted to see tougher action against the leadership of Al-Qaeda," a British official said.

The official said Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani would be coming to London on December 3 to meet with Brown.

In television interviews today, Brown said that while progress had been made by Pakistani forces in South Waziristan, a bastion of the Pakistani Taliban, there were still big issues to deal with in the country.

"People are going to ask why, eight years after 2001, Osama bin Laden has never been near to being caught...and what can the Pakistan authorities do that is far more effective," he told Sky news.

"Al-Qaeda has a base in Pakistan, that base is still there that they are able to recruit from abroad," he said. "The Pakistan authorities must convince us that they are taking all the action that is necessary to deal with that threat."

He also questioned why there had been no evidence to lead to the capture of bin Laden and his second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri, despite people in Pakistan knowing where they are.

His comments came as a U.S. report criticized military leaders under former President George W. Bush for missing an opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden in 2001.

Brown, facing dwindling public backing at home for keeping British troops in Afghanistan, said the campaign to free British streets from terrorism must start from Pakistan, where, he said, three quarters of plots against British people were masterminded.

Speaking a day after offering to host a conference early next year to set out a timetable for transferring security responsibilities to Afghan forces from 2010, Brown reiterated comments that Britain wants to have trained 5,000 extra Afghan forces in Helmand Province by the end of next year.