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Pakistan rejects foreign troops on its soil

world Updated: Jul 10, 2008 08:40 IST

Pakistan's top diplomat asserted that his nation will permit only Pakistani troops to operate within its borders, rejecting a standing US offer of military assistance also intended to help Afghanistan.

The statement by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, coming during late Wednesday's UN Security Council session on Afghanistan's future, could deal a blow to the United States' efforts to kill or capture al-Qaida leaders.

"Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against other countries. However, no foreign troops will be allowed to operate inside Pakistan," Qureshi told the 15-nation council. "The new democratic government in Pakistan cannot but be sensitive to the sentiments of our people."

The council's session was shadowed by Monday's suicide car bombing at the gates of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed dozens of people and wounded more than 130 others, widely seen as another sign of deteriorating security in Afghanistan. Afghan officials quickly raised suspicions that Pakistani operatives had worked with the Taliban to set off a bombing that could play into the long-standing struggle for power between Pakistan and India.

The Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, Jayant Prasad, said the death toll from Monday's bombing had risen to 58, up from 41, and that several school-age children who attend classes near the embassy were among the dead.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta described the car bombing as another "in the succession of increasingly brutal attacks that targeted the people of Afghanistan, the region, and the world."

He said the counterterrorism efforts, if they are to succeed in reducing the escalating violence, must now be joined by greater efforts to eliminate "root causes" of narcotics, corruption.