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US vows to stand by Pak in fight against terror

October 28, 2009 19:57 IST

Stating that Pakistan was at a 'critical point' of history, the United States on Wednesday offered to stand soldier-to-soldier with the country in its fight against 'tenacious and brutal terror groups'.

"This is not Pakistan's fight alone," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced hours after a car bomb in Peshawar killed at least 95 people and injured over 200.

"Pakistan is in the midst of a struggle against tenacious and brutal terror groups who kill innocent people and terrorise communities," she told reporters and pledged US support.

"These terrorists are committed to destroying what is dear to us as much as they are committed to destroying what is dear to you and to all people. So this is our struggle as well," Clinton told a joint press conference after her meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Saying anti-terrorism remains a 'very high priority', the top US diplomat said Washington wanted to broaden its engagement with Islamabad.

On her maiden visit to Pakistan after assuming office, Clinton is meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Clinton said that all militants are part of a syndicate, with the Al Qaeda playing a key role in promoting the Taliban to carry out audacious attacks, like the one on the Pakistan army's General Headquarters.

"In recent weeks, Pakistan has endured a barrage of attacks and I would like to convey my sympathy and that of the American people to the people of Pakistan," Clinton said.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said the terrorist attacks being faced by Pakistan on a 'daily basis' will not shake the government's resolve and determination to eliminate extremism.

"We will not buckle and we will fight you because we want stability and peace in Pakistan," he said, adding the militants are on the run after being defeated in Swat.

Clinton, however, indicated that the US would be willing to work with all elements which renounce violence and are not part of the Al Qaeda. "Let's sort out the hard core (Taliban) and make sure we defeat them. But if there are people who wish to renounce violence and begin to get reintegrated back into society, we should at least be open to that and deal with it on a case-by-case, individual-by-individual basis," said Clinton.

She refused to be drawn into a debate on whether there are 'good Taliban' and made no reference to contentious issues like differences between the US and Pakistan on conditions attached to economic aid.

Asked if she agreed with the definition of 'good Taliban', she replied, "I don't know about good but I know that there are people who are caught up in the Taliban movement who may well be less than committed to any cause."

The military and political leadership could also take up the issue of speedy reimbursement of Pakistan's expenses for the war on terror and the need for sophisticated equipment and weapons for the campaign against the Taliban, sources said.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has described Clinton's visit to Islamabad as the most important trip she will be undertaking since she became the Secretary of State.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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