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Dialogue is only solution to terror, says Zardari

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said on Saturday that dialogue was the only way to solve the problems confronting the region, amid heightened tensions with India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.See special | World worried over tensions

india Updated: Dec 28, 2008 01:37 IST

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said on Saturday that dialogue was the only way to solve the problems confronting the region, amid heightened tensions with India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

“We do not talk of war or vengeance, the whole region will suffer in case of war,” Zardari told ministers and lawmakers at the family home in Nau Dero of his dead wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated one year ago in a gun and bomb attack.

Pakistan is not a failed state, the president said. “We’re determined to rid the country of terrorism,” he said, accusing “non-state actors” of forcing their agenda upon the country. He described extremism as a ‘cancer’. Zardari told the gathering that included senior ministers and legislators that Pakistan would act to rein in extremists “because we want to do it”, and not because “you want it”.

He was apparently referring to countries putting pressure on Pakistan to take action in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

“We’ll do it at an opportune time, right time,” he said.

“We’ll choose our time. We’ll cure it, we’ll solve it, we’ll correct it. We’ll be accountable to ourselves. We’ll fight our own wars.”

Zardari said he hoped dialogue would soon begin in an effort to overcome regional threats, but did not elaborate. “Dialogue is our biggest arsenal… the solution to the problem of the region... is politics, is dialogue and is democracy in Pakistan, because democracy is part of the cure and not part of the problem,” he said in a speech carried live on state television.

He mentioned the large markets that China and India have for Pakistani goods. More trade with both countries, he suggested, would be in Pakistan’s interest.

Speaking at the same venue, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also sounded a note of conciliation. “We don’t want to have aggression with our neighbours,” he said. “We want to have friendly relations with our neighbours. I assure you once again that we’ll not act. We’ll only react.”

The Pakistani leaders’ comments came a day after the US, and Pakistan’s close allies China and Saudi Arabia, asked Islamabad to take steps to defuse tension with India and bring to justice those behind the Mumbai terror attacks.

Agencies