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Pakistani PM says US strikes inflame tensions

world Updated: Jan 31, 2009 09:44 IST

AP
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Pakistan's prime minister warned President Barack Obama on Friday that US attacks on Islamic militants in Pakistani territory are inflaming tensions and undermining efforts to quell the insurgency in Afghanistan. Under the Bush administration, US officials complained the Pakistani government wasn't doing enough to confront militants that are allied with the Taliban and al-Qaida. US forces have staged a number of missile strikes, and at least one ground attack, aimed at extremists based in Pakistan.

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, we are successfully isolating the militants from the local tribes, and we are keeping the tribes on the right side," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said during an event on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. Obama has pledged to shift the US military's focus away from Iraq and on to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he calls the central front in the struggle against terrorist groups. But he has offered few specifics about how his approach would turn around a fight that Adm Mike Mullen, the top US military officer, says the United States is not winning.

Gilani said Richard Holbrooke, the new US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, will visit Pakistan on Feb 9. "The focus of President Obama and our forces and our resolve is the same _ to fight against extremism and terrorism," he said. But Gilani said US attacks inside Pakistan are inflaming anti-American sentiment. "Therefore that would not be useful. It would be counterproductive," he said.

Gilani said American forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for 5 1/2 years "and there is no progress at all."

"Rather things have deteriorated," he said. "This policy (of striking targets in Pakistan) would not be beneficial for winning a war. Rather it will be a hindrance in winning a war." Gilani praised Obama for stressing the importance of winning hearts and minds. "That is the only way forward," he said. He said that approach will require a mix of political dialogue with non-militants and aid for economic development in Pakistan to alleviate hunger, disease and unemployment, which he said lead to extremism.

The Pakistani people would realize "that the United States is with us and not against us," Gilani

He expressed hope that the Congress would expedite legislation that would triple humanitarian spending in Pakistan. Pakistan is paying a heavy price in its fight with groups, with thousands of soldiers and police killed or wounded, and "a flight of capital" every time there is a suicide bombing in Islamabad, Gilani said.