Pakistan's ceasefire deal with the pro-Taliban tribals in its North Waziristan area will not diminish its efforts to apprehend and bring to justice Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to the Bush administration.
The ceasefire is part of the Pakistani government's efforts to eliminate extremism in the border areas and neither bin Laden nor members of his organisation would "get a free pass if they keep their noses clean" under the terms of the agreement, according to White House press secretary Tony Snow.
Snow told reporters Wednesday that the Pakistan government had clarified earlier comments by one of its military spokesmen that suggested bin Laden would not be taken into custody by its authorities if they had the opportunity to do so.
Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Mahmud Ali Durrani, had issued a statement that said: "If (bin Laden) is in Pakistan, today or any time later, he will be taken into custody and brought to justice."
Snow said that the Bush administration wants to assist the Pakistan government in securing North Waziristan and in going after Al-Qaeda, and the administration believes the ceasefire "is consistent with those efforts".
Later, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also said Pakistan has come out very clearly that they will continue to hunt senior Al-Qaeda leaders and will not allow that area to serve as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda or terrorists.
But the Bush administration will see how this agreement plays out. It was something that is very important to President Pervez Musharraf in trying to get a handle on that situation in an area that has been ungoverned for many, many years, he told reporters.
"So the bottom line is we'll see how it is implemented and we'll see what the outcome of the implementation is," he said.