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Terrorist sanctuaries no longer acceptable: Pak

October 06, 2009 04:10 IST

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi said on Monday that terror sanctuaries are no longer acceptable in his country and his government is determined to take strong action against terrorists even as he acknowledged that there are elements in Pakistan who are sympathetic to the extremists.

"The sanctuaries that they had are no longer acceptable to the people of Pakistan," Qureshi told the popular NPR Radio's Morning Edition shortly after a suicide attack at the UN food agency's office in Islamabad killed five persons. "The government of Pakistan is playing its role to deal with that threat, and we have done so in a convincing manner in the last year-and-a-half. But today, as we put on the heat on the terrorists in Pakistan, in the tribal belt, they are fleeing Pakistan," he said. However, the minister admitted that "some elements" in his country still have sympathy for fundamentalists groups.

"I would say there are some elements in Pakistan that have sympathy for such elements, such fundamentalists. But the overwhelming majority of people of Pakistan have no sympathy for them," Qureshi said in response to a question.
Qureshi said the US should share its intelligence with Pakistan if it has any information about presence of top al Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden in the tribal areas of his country.

"If the US intelligence is that clear, they should share that intelligence with us and we will help them catch him, because we have an interest in getting hold of Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden. But we are not sure of their presence. If you are confident of the information that you have, we are your allies. Share it with us," he said.

The Foreign Minister denied reports that Mulla Omar and other top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders were in Quetta region of Pakistan. "If they were there, we could have chased them out by now, but we don't think they are there," he said. Cautioning the US not to underestimate the contribution of Pakistan, he said: "Without Pakistan's logistic support, without Pakistan's intelligence cooperation, without Pakistan's sympathy and without Pakistan being on your side, you wouldn't have achieved what you have achieved so far." Qureshi said he wants from the US a long-term commitment to Pakistan and the region so that when "you do recede, we ensure that we have in place structures to replace, and not create a vacuum that you created in the past".

He said Pakistanis felt being let down by the US when they "abandoned" the country after the end of Afghan war with the Russians. "You abandoned us. You left without seeing through the implications and the consequences that fight has had on Pakistan."

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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