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Bush criticises talk of U.S. strike on Pakistan - govt

August 4, 2007

Bush criticises talk of U.S. strike on Pakistan - govt

By Zeeshan Haider

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday described the prospect of U.S. strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan as "unsavoury", saying Washington respected its ally's sovereignty, the Pakistani government said. 

Bush made the comments to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in a telephone call to congratulate Pakistanis ahead of the 60th anniversary of their independence on Aug. 14. 

U.S. President George W. Bush is seen speaking to the media in the White House in this August 2, 2007 file photo. Bush on Friday described the prospect of U.S. strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan as "unsavoury", saying Washington respected its ally's sovereignty, the Pakistani government said. (REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said this week that the United States must be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan. 

A Pakistani foreign ministry statement said: "President Bush stated that the United States fully respected Pakistan's sovereignty and appreciated Pakistan's resolve in fighting al Qaeda and other terrorist elements. 

"He (Bush) said that such statements were unsavoury and often prompted by political considerations in an environment of electioneering," the statement added, without making direct reference to Obama. 

"He agreed that such statements did not serve the interests of either country." 

Obama said on Wednesday if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government. 

Pakistan's lawless tribal regions have long been used as a safe haven by al Qaeda and Taliban militants, and Islamabad is under growing pressure from the United States to do more against militant cells there. 

A bill Bush is expected to sign ties Pakistan aid to progress against the militants. 

FULLY CAPABLE 

Pakistan says its forces are capable of dealing with militants and has repeatedly rejected the idea of U.S. strikes on its territory. 

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Friday Pakistan would not allow militants to use its territory against other states, and would not allow foreign forces to operate on its soil. 

"The truth is Pakistan, being a sovereign country, will never allow any country to send troops to its territory for any purpose," he told reporters in remarks broadcast by state-run Pakistan Television. 

Analysts say unilateral U.S. action in Pakistan could pose a major risk for its ally Musharraf, who is experiencing the weakest period in his eight-year rule after the reinstatement of the country's top judge, whom he had tried to sack. 

He also faces a growing militant backlash after an army assault on Islamabad's Red Mosque, a radical Islamist bastion, last month. 

More than 200 people, mainly police and soldiers, have been killed in attacks across Pakistan since the mosque assault. The government says 102 people died in the assault. 

Last month militants also scrapped a peace pact with the government in North Waziristan, a known safe haven for al Qaeda fighters and their Taliban allies. 

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