Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Humble pie on menu as PM David Cameron meets Pakistani president

David Cameron met Asif Ali Zardari and his children Asifa Bhutto Zardari (left) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (second left)

David Cameron finally came face to face with Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, last night but his explanation for controversial remarks about the export of terrorism that caused uproar would have to wait.

The Prime Minister is holding talks at Chequers with Mr Zardari, whose visit to Britain has gone ahead despite the disaster caused by heavy monsoon rain in Pakistan and the threat of a diplomatic rift set off by Mr Cameron's remarks.

But last night's event was an informal dinner organised by the International Development minister Alan Duncan in honour of Mr Zardari's widow, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007. Mr Duncan is an old friend of the Bhutto family. Downing Street described the dinner as a private occasion, where most guests were family friends.

Yesterday, Downing Street denied that Mr Cameron had been snubbed by the president, who went back to London afterwards instead of staying overnight. A spokesman said that Mr Cameron was delighted that the Pakistani president was able to be at the dinner at all.

Today's meeting will be less relaxed. The president is expected to chide Mr Cameron for his public warning to Pakistan not to “promote the export of terror whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world”.

The two leaders will also discuss the international response to the floods in Pakistan, to which the UK has contributed £5m through Unicef.

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