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Pak says no decision has been taken on fresh offensive

world Updated: May 20, 2010 23:09 IST

Pakistan today did not rule out a fresh military offensive against Taliban fighters holed up in North Waziristan tribal region but made it clear that it alone would decide the timing of such a campaign.

"Pakistan is conducting its operations according to its own plans and as far as North Waziristan is concerned, that will be our sovereign decision as to when and how to proceed," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said.

"But no decision has been taken on that (as yet)," Basit told a weekly news briefing in response to a question on whether the US is pressuring Pakistan to move troops into North Waziristan.

Decision about operations in the country's volatile tribal belt bordering Afghanistan "will be taken by Pakistan and Pakistan alone and in accordance with our own priorities and plans", the spokesman said.

Pakistan "will proceed when required and the timing and the method will be decided by us", he added.

Basit's remarks came in the wake of a report in the influential Dawn newspaper that Pakistan had agreed in principle to launch a full-fledged military operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan but had told the US that the timing of the offensive would be decided by it.

The decision was made during a meeting yesterday between President Asif Ali Zardari and visiting US National Security Advisor James Jones and CIA chief Leon Panetta, the daily reported.

The meeting was also attended by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

"Pakistan is sincere and committed in combating terrorism and is ready to expand its anti-militancy operations to North Waziristan. However, for that we will require time to do the necessary shaping up. The operation will be started according to our own judgment," a senior unnamed official was quoted as saying by Dawn.

Hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements, including top commanders, are believed to have holed up in North Waziristan after Pakistani troops conducted operations in other parts of the tribal belt, including South Waziristan and Bajaur Agencies.

The US has been pressing Pakistan for some time to act against militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan and the pressure has increased since the botched car bomb attack in New York by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad.

US officials have said Shahzad had received bomb-making training in North Waziristan and that it is necessary to clear the region of Taliban and Al-Qaeda.