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Rice changes tone in Pakistan

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
December 04, 2008 19:19 IST
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Appearing to change the tone after tough talk on Mumbai attacks, the US on Thursday said Pakistan "understands its responsibilities" to respond to terrorism wherever it exists and sounded convinced that Islamabad would act against those responsible for the strikes in India.

After her meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she "fully believed" that Pakistan would investigate the leads into the Mumbai attacks as Islamabad is "committed" to the war against terror and "does not want, in any way, to be associated with terrorists".

Noting that she was satisfied with her talks with the Pakistani leadership, she told reporters that she had found that Islamabad "understands its responsibilities to respond to terrorism and extremism wherever it is found."

"We talked at some length on the attack on Mumbai and about the importance of Pakistan taking its responsibility to deal with those who may use Pakistani territory even if they are non-state actors," she said after her meetings with Zardari and Gilani here soon after flying in from New Delhi.

"I found a Pakistani leadership that is very focussed and committed for its own reasons because Pakistan has been a victim of these terrorist elements," said Rice who had talked tough on the Mumbai attacks during her visit to India on Thursday.

"(The leadership) is very committed to acting and Pakistan is going to investigate the circumstances, what may have happened to support in any way the attacks in Mumbai

because the Pakistani government, I was told and I fully believe, is very committed to the war on terror and does not in any way want to be associated with terrorist elements," she said.

Zardari, during his meeting with Rice, said Pakistan government "will not only assist in investigation (into the Mumbai strikes) but also take strong action against any Pakistani elements found involved in the attack".

"Pakistan is determined to ensure that its territory is not used for any act of terrorism," he said.

After the meeting, Rice claimed that Pakistan "is indeed fighting to root them (terrorists) out wherever they find them. And therefore I found these conversations (with the leadership here) quite satisfactory."

She said "extremists who continue to strike" in various parts of the world have struck here in Pakistan. "This is also Pakistan's security concern and in all of my meetings I have found a Pakistani government that is focussed on the threat."

Replying to a question on India sharing evidence regarding the attacks in Mumbai that claimed 183 lives, Rice said "I think there is a lot of information about what happened here. And so this isn't an issue of sharing evidence.

"There is a lot of information and there are many mechanisms through which to share that information. That information needs to be used now to get the perpetrators and to prevent them from doing this again."

Asked how confident she was on Indian and Pakistani governments working together effectively, Rice expressed the hope that the two sides will keep the lines of  communication open.

"It's a difficult time but I do want to just note that we are starting, when this incident happened, relations between India and Pakistan had improved considerably. And so that's a good thing. It's good that you are starting from a base in which relations were improving rather than relations in a bad state.

"But obviously what is going to need to be done here is that the cooperation, the efforts to move forward are going to have to result in bringing the perpetrators to justice and in preventing further attacks," she said.

To a question on the US role in investigation into the Mumbai attacks, Rice said Washington is prepared to help in whatever it can.

"There's considerable capacity on the side of India, there's considerable capacity on the side of Pakistan. It is our intention to augment that in any way that is helpful. I had conversations in Britain, they have the same attitude.

"We will be helpful in any way that we can but obviously the best thing is that these two countries do what they can through their own capacity to fully investigate and bring people to justice who perpetrated that," she said.

Describing the Mumbai strikes as "a terrible and sophisticated attack" not seen in the subcontinent before, Rice said "there is an urgency to getting to the bottom of it and to bringing the perpetrators to justice and using the information to disrupt and prevent further attacks."

"Everyone needs to stay focussed on those priorities. The US is focussed on those priorities because Americans were also killed in these attacks. So it's of special concern to us.

"But it reminds us that this is a global struggle and all responsible states have to play their role in making certain that the terrorists can't get away with this kind of attack," she said.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad