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America rules out direct role in North Pakistan

US says it is working with Pak to ensure that it does not become a terror haven.

world Updated:

The Unites States on Wednesday ruled out a direct role in areas of Northern Pakistan witnessing rising Al-Qaeda activities and said it was working with Islamabad to ensure that the region does not become a safe haven for terrorists.

Appearing before the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee on War Funding, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Pakistan has a "strong interest" in not allowing extremism breed in the area

"The vice president will come back ... And report to the president on what he learned. But I do think that we need to remember that the Pakistanis have a very strong interest, also, in not having extremism breed in that area," Rice said.

Rice, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, were appearing before the Senate panel when she was asked to comment by Republican Senator Sam Brownback on the latest trip of US Vice President Dick Cheny to Pakistan.

Senator Brownback, who at one time Chaired the Senate Foreign Relations' Sub Committee on Near East and South Asia, observed that much of the trouble on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is "mostly coming from the Pakistani side."

"We believe that we have the commitment of the Pakistanis to fight these extremists because they threaten Pakistan as well," she said.

Rice and Genral Pace also ruled out against the use of American forces in parts of Northern Pakistan with a view to wiping out or eliminating the leadership of the Al-Qaeda.

"I'm rather dubious that the surge of American forces into the federally administered areas of Pakistan, those tough mountains of places like North Waziristan, would have been a workable strategy" Rice said in response to another querry.

On the agreement signed between Islamabad and tribal elders of the Waziristan, Rice said "I think, there have been some problems and we've been working our way through ways to cooperate with the Pakistanis to make sure that that doesn't become a terrorist safe haven".

"One of the most difficult problems we face in this war is: How do you attack an enemy inside of a country with which you're not at war?" General Pace said.

The hearing on War Funding was Chaired by the Senior Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, a long time critic of the Iraq war who is also highly apprehensive of the military goings on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his opening remarks, Senator Byrd said in addition to the USD 99.6 billion, Congress has already appropriated USD507 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including USD376 billion for the war in Iraq.

"In fiscal year 2007 alone, the Department of Defence is spending some USD10 billion per month in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the last seven fiscal years, including funding combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Congress has provided a total of USD3.2 trillion" he said stressing accountability to the tax payers.

First Published: Feb 28, 2007 17:59 IST