Top US General Confers with Pakistani Leaders

Rezaul H Laskar, Islamabad
Top US General Confers with Pakistani Leaders
A top US General has asked Pakistan that it was in its interest to deal with internal problems, including the fallout of Mumbai terror attacks and indicated a step up in military assistance to deal with militants active on the borders with Afghanistan.

Gen David Petraeus, the Commander of US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, who arrived here this morning on a one-day visit, met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Petraeus told them that "it was in the interest of all countries that Pakistan should succeed in dealing with its internal problems, including the fallout of the Mumbai terror attacks."

He discussed the measures taken by Islamabad in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, including arrests made by Pakistani authorities, during his meetings.

"We discussed the actions that Pakistan has taken in following up on the investigation and the recent arrests (made) in the wake of the Mumbai attacks and the steps they have taken to deal with that situation," he said in a brief statement to the media.

"It is clearly in the interest of all countries involved that Pakistan succeeds in dealing with its internal problems," his statement added.

Petraeus, making his second visit to Islamabad since he was appointed chief of the US Central Command last year, also discussed ways in which America and the international community could increase assistance for Pakistan's fight against extremists in the NWFP, tribal and other areas.

Such assistance, he said, is necessary as Pakistan's democratic government "gets established and undertakes the difficult decisions that it has recently reached to be in compliance" with a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.

Petraeus also discussed coordination and cooperation between US forces in Afghanistan and the Pakistani military.

"Troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan have to take "coordinated actions" as militants move back and forth across the border and cause problems in both countries," he said.

The American commander travelled to Pakistan after visiting the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, where he said his talks had focussed on reaching agreements on opening new land routes for transporting supplies to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Observers said the US has been looking for alternate supply routes to Afghanistan following a surge in attacks on supply convoys headed for Afghanistan through the Khyber pass.

Petraeus said, the US needed multiple supply routes into north Afghanistan due to a proposed increase in activities.

Besides Zardari and Gilani, Petraeus also met the powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

A statement issued by the presidency said Zardari and Petraeus discussed regional security matters. TV channels quoted official sources as saying that Zardari told the US commander that Pakistan had exercised restraint despite "provocative statements" from India in the wake of the Mumbai incident.

Zardari also reportedly said that Pakistan reserved the right to defend itself in the face of any aggression. He also outlined the steps Pakistan had taken in the wake of the Mumbai attacks and said the findings of the country's probe into the incident will be shared with India.

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