Pakistan President says new US policy 'positive' | world | Hindustan Times
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Pakistan President says new US policy 'positive'

world Updated: Mar 28, 2009 19:27 IST

Pakistan's President hailed the Obama administration's new strategy against al-Qaida as a "positive change" and insisted Saturday that his country would not allow its territory to be used for terrorism.

Asif Ali Zardari praised President Barack Obama's call for Congress to grant annual civilian aid of US$1.5 billion to Pakistan. However, he gave little indication of any new measures against terrorism.

"The US presidency's new approach represents a positive change. It is an endorsement of our call for economical, social uplifts as a means of fighting extremism," Zardari said in a speech to Parliament.

The revised policy unveiled by Obama on Friday says Pakistan must become a more willing partner in efforts to eliminate al-Qaida from its bases along the Afghan border in return for massive economic and military aid.

Zardari said Pakistan, where militant violence has risen sharply over the past two years, will deal "firmly" with groups defying the state.

With the aid of foreign donors, authorities are raising an elite 20,000-strong police force in each of the country's four provinces to counter terrorism, he said.

However, he also hinted at Pakistan's opposition to US missile attacks against al-Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Obama did not mention the strikes, apparently carried out by remotely piloted CIA aircraft, though US officials say they have killed several top al-Qaida figures and indicated they will continue.

Islamabad argues that the strikes kill too many civilians, enflame already strong anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and undermine government efforts to isolate extremists. "The government will not allow the use of its soil for terrorist activities against any other country. We will also not allow anyone to violate our sovereignty," Zardari said.