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War comments deepen Pakistan spat

The spat between Pakistan and Britain has deepened after President Asif Ali Zardari warned the war in Afghanistan was being lost.

The premier delivered his blunt assessment of the Nato campaign's progress against the Taliban as he arrived in the UK for what promises to be a fraught visit.

He also made clear he would be challenging David Cameron personally over his suggestion that elements in Pakistan were promoting terrorists.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Mr Zardari said coalition forces had "under-estimated the situation on the ground" in Afghanistan.

"The international community, to which Pakistan belongs, is losing the war against the Taliban," he said. "This is above all because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds."

Referring to the controversial comments made by the Prime Minister while visiting regional rival India last week, Mr Zardari said he would be raising them when the men have talks at Chequers on Friday.

"The war against terrorism must unite us and not oppose us," he said. "I will explain face to face that it is my country that is paying the highest price in human life for this war."

But speaking on BBC WM radio, Mr Cameron flatly rejected the idea that Nato was "losing the battle of hearts and minds". "We're protecting a large percentage of the population (in central Helmand province) keeping them free from terror and, in the areas that we are in, you now see markets functioning and schools open ... and life is actually able to go on," he said.

The Prime Minister also expressed "enormous sympathy" for the people of Pakistan over the catastrophic floods engulfing parts of the country and stressed that Britain had boosted aid there.

Criticism of Mr Zardari's decision to press ahead with the visit has been heightened by the disaster - which has claimed up to 1,400 lives and affected two million people - with critics saying he should be at home to deal with the devastation.

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