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Taliban pose a danger to US, Pakistan, India: Zardari

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 20, 2009 16:49 IST
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Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has acknowledged that the Taliban, with whom his government reached a truce deal in the restive Swat valley days ago, are "murderous thugs and militants" who "pose a danger to Pakistan, the United States and India".

The US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, who is just back from Pakistan, told CNN in Washington: "Zardari doesn't disagree that the people who are running Swat now are murderous thugs and militants and they pose a danger not only to Pakistan, but to the United States and India".

When specifically asked if Zardari gave him any commitment, Holbrooke, who conveyed Washington's concern to Zardari on telephone, said: "That I don't know. But the issue isn't whether he signs the deal or not, the issue is the negotiations themselves."

The United States has conveyed strong concern to Zardari over the truce deal with a Taliban-linked group for enforcing Shariah law in the restive Swat Valley.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are worried that this deal should not turn into a surrender to the Taliban militants, Holbrooke told Zardari in a telephonic conversation.

Holbrooke said the US is worried over the peace deal as it gives the Taliban the authority in a critically important part of the country.  "It's hard to understand this deal in Swat, less than 100 miles from the capital in Islamabad. President Zardari says it's an interim arrangement while they stabilize the situation," Holbrooke said.

Over the US' concern that the deal might turn into a surrender, "President Zardari has assured us that's not the case. He is sending a very high level delegation, including the Pakistan foreign minister. Several senior military officials, Army chief General Kayani will be in town, the head of the Inter-State Intelligence will be in town next week, the Afghans are sending their group," he said.

"I can assure you, and President Zardari knows this, that this will be the top initial subject of conversation," he said.

Holbrooke said the increase in US troops in Afghanistan would turn the tide as the US revamps strategy to upgrade the civilian and economic and reconstruction components in Afghanistan.

"Above all we've got to deal with Pakistan. We have to stem the deterioration in the tribal areas," Holbrooke said.

Delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan will arrive in the US next week to participate in the strategic review on Afghan policy.

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