Destroy terror havens,says Obama,but Pak says peace with India first

Piling up pressure on Pakistan,US President Barack Obama on Tuesday made it clear that the US will not allow havens for al-Qaeda and Taliban...

Written by Press Trust Of India | Washington/islamabad | Published: February 11, 2009 12:59:41 am

Piling up pressure on Pakistan,US President Barack Obama on Tuesday made it clear that the US will not allow havens for al-Qaeda and Taliban in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan,and asked Islamabad to take “control of the situation”.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke,currently in Pakistan,has been sent to make sure that Islamabad is a “stalwart ally with us in battling this terrorist threat”,he said.

“Well,I think that Pakistan — there is no doubt that in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas region of Pakistan,in the mountainous regions along the border of Afghanistan,there are safe havens where terrorists are operating,” Obama said in his first news conference in Washington after assuming office on January 20.

He was asked if he thought Pakistan was maintaining the havens in Afghanistan for terrorists. “One of the goals of Ambassador Holbrooke ¿ is to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations and that we’ve got to work in a regional fashion to root out those safe havens,” Obama said.

The new administration is also carrying out a thorough review of the US policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan,he said. “My bottom line is that we cannot allow Al-Qaeda to operate. We cannot have those safe havens in that region,” Obama said.

In Islamabad,however,Holbrooke was told that peace with India is vital for Pakistan to concentrate on the war on terror along the Afghan border,in an apparent bid to put pressure on Washington to play a more active role in defusing India-Pakistan tensions.

Acknowledging that India and the Kashmir issue were not part of Holbrooke’s mandate,Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he had made it clear to the envoy that “if Pakistan has to remain focused on the western front,a calm eastern front is to everybody’s advantage”.

Holbrooke was quoted by Qureshi as saying that US intended to complete its review of its regional policy by April 2,when the new policy will be unveiled at a NATO summit.

Pakistan and the US agreed to set up an inter-agency team led by Holbrooke and Qureshi to review all policies and to design a new strategy. The Pakistani military will also be part of this new team.

During his meeting with Holbrooke,Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought “early resolution” of the Kashmir issue to ensure lasting peace and stability in the region. He said the issue had “bedeviled” India-Pakistan ties for over six decades.

Gilani also said the US should reconsider the policy of incursions into Pakistan’s tribal areas as

“such actions have proved counter-productive”.

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