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Pak won't tolerate US incursions: Zardari

In his maiden address to Parliament, the Pak President sends a clear signal to the US against launching cross-border raids on its tribal belt from Afghanistan.

world Updated: Sep 20, 2008 19:34 IST

President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday said that Pakistan would not tolerate violation of its sovereignty by any power in the name of fighting terror, sending a clear signal to the US against launching cross-border raids on its tribal belt from Afghanistan.

At the same time, Zardari said, the government "should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of (Pakistani) soil for carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country".

In his maiden address to Parliament, he said, "We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism."

Zardari's remarks were applauded by lawmakers and even opposition PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, who was present in the National Assembly.

Pakistan is in the midst of a raging row with America over cross-border strikes by US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan targeting militant hideouts in its tribal region.

The President made it clear that Pakistan would have to resolve all conflicts along its frontiers in the interest of global peace. "I believe that the world has become a dangerous place for nations with conflicts on their borders. So we need peace, not only within Pakistan but also in our neighbourhood," he said.

"At all times, we must keep our national interests in mind. This means understanding the limits of confrontation.

"Under this strategy, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was especially invited to my oath-taking ceremony as a mark of Pakistan's sincere desire and consistent effort to promote close relations and strengthen cooperation with the brotherly country of Afghanistan," Zardari said.

At the same time, Pakistan would "position itself as a trade and energy hub for South and Central Asia", the new President said.

Pakistan's foreign policy, he said, will be "geared not only to defence of territorial integrity and sovereignty but also promotion of commercial and economic interests".

While strengthening "brotherly relations" with Iran, Pakistan would take its "time-tested and all-weather friendship and strategic partnership with China to greater heights," he said.

Zardari said Pakistan wanted to build a long-term partnership with the US and its European partners that is "broad-based and mutually beneficial".

Pakistan will also continue to extend full support to the "Palestinian cause of self-determination" while rejuvenating its relations with the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and ASEAN to promote bilateral trade and investment.

On the domestic front, Zardari said an "immediate and most urgent task" before the government is providing food security to the people. He noted that welfare programmes like Benazir Income Support Scheme had been launched for the poor.

The government, he said, was contending with the problems caused by the economic policies of the previous regime, including the issues of "pure consumption and huge liabilities". The removal of subsides on oil and gas was a "bitter pill we had to swallow because our balance of payments account could not sustain the expenditures of the last regime", he added.

To revive the economy, the government has launched a programme for restoring investor confidence, resumption of foreign investment, gradual build-up of reserves, exchange rate stability and revival of sustainable growth, he said.