TEHRAN: The presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan agreed on Saturday to join forces in combating terrorism, in a joint statement issued after a six-nation summit in Tehran.
"All sides stressed their commitment to efforts aimed at eliminating extremism, militancy, terrorism, as well as rejecting foreign interference, which is in blatant opposition to the spirit of Islam, the peaceful cultural traditions of the region and its peoples' interests," said the statement carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency
President Asif Ali Zardari told the "International Conference on Global Fight Against Terrorism" that Pakistan is committed to crushing terrorists in the region and that defeat is not an option.
Addressing the International Anti-Terrorism Conference in Tehran, the president said Pakistan is passing through a critical phase but is still committed to its fight against terrorism.
Zardari said Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terrorism, with its estimated losses amounting to around $67 billion. He maintained that terrorism is a threat to the international community so joint efforts must be made to eliminate it.
Also addressing the conference, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that despite his government's efforts, militancy was on the rise in both his country and the region.
"Unfortunately, despite all the achievements in the fields of education, infrastructure and reconstruction, not only has Afghanistan not yet achieved peace and security, but terrorism is expanding and threatening more than ever Afghanistan and the region," he told the opening session.
The two-day summit is being attended by the heads of state of six regional countries, including Afghan neighbours Iran and Pakistan.
"Peace, stability in our country are truly threatened. All countries in the region must help fight terrorism, since terrorism has such power that no nation can be spared," Karzai told fellow leaders.
"The problems of Afghanistan should be settled through dialogue," he added.
As Karzai spoke, a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle by a hospital in Logar province, just south of the capital Kabul, killing 30 people, a provincial official said.
Responding on Thursday to US President Barack Obama's annoucement of a drawdown of US troop in Afghanistan, Karzai said his government will speeed up its efforts to take over security.
He described Obama's decision as "a good step in their favour and in favour of Afghanistan".
"We thank the international community for the services that they gave to Afghanistan," Karzai told reporters, adding: "This land only can be and should be built by the hands of its sons."
Earlier on Friday, President Zardari and Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai held a three-way summit with Iran ahead of attending an anti-terrorism conference, state news agency IRNA reported.
Zardari, Karzai and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed "ways of battling terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking," IRNA said.
A statement posted on the Iranian presidency website said the three "expressed concern over a rising lack of security, extremism and terrorism, and insisted on the need for cooperation to combat these phenomena."
The tripartite summit is being held amid announcements by the United States that it will draw down by 33,000 its contingent of 99,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of summer 2012.
Several hundred French soldiers have also been recalled from Afghanistan recently, while Britain and Germany, which have the largest presence there after the United States, have also declared their intention to reduce their contingents by the end of the year.
"The Afghan people wants the departure of foreign forces, and therefore Iran and Pakistan can play an important role in establishing a durable peace in Afghanistan," the Iranian presidency website quoted Karzai as saying.
Ahmadinejad agreed that all three nations must "cooperate closely on security matters," it said.
Zardari was quoted as saying that Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan must boost ties and cooperation because all three countries "are the main victims of terrorism and war."
Iran has always been hostile to the presence of Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, saying this strengthened terrorist groups such as the Taliban and al Qaeda more than it weakened them.
Tehran itself suffers from the activities of armed Sunni Muslim group Jundallah around its border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Jundallah is on the United States' list of outlawed terrorist groups.
On Saturday Zardari and Karzai will attend an international anti-terrorism conference alongside Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Iranian media reported.
All three arrived in the Iranian capital on Friday afternoon for the gathering, which will also be attended by other nations as observers.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court, which has issued two arrest warrants on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur region, where a bloody conflict has raged for eight years.
Iran, which is on Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism, regularly accuses Israel and the US of plotting terrorist attacks against its territory.
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