Bush criticizes talk of U.S. strike on Pakistan: govt
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday described the prospect of U.S. strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan as "unsavory," saying Washington respected its ally's sovereignty, the Pakistani government said.
It said Bush made the comments to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in a telephone call to congratulate Pakistanis ahead of the 60th anniversary of their independence on August 14.
Bush's comments followed a statement by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama this week that the United States must be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, a view Bush himself had earlier publicly espoused.
A Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said, "President Bush stated that the United States fully respected Pakistan's sovereignty and appreciated Pakistan's resolve in fighting al Qaeda and other terrorist elements.
"He (Bush) said that such statements were unsavory and often prompted by political considerations in an environment of electioneering," the statement added, without making direct reference to Obama.
"He agreed that such statements did not serve the interests of either country."
In an interview with CNN in September 2006, Bush was asked if he would order U.S. forces to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan if he received good intelligence on the fugitive al Qaeda leader's location. "Absolutely," he said.
"We would take the action necessary to bring him to justice," Bush said.
His Homeland Security adviser, Fran Townsend, confirmed that position on July 17: "There's no question the president has made perfectly clear if we had actionable targets anywhere in the world, putting aside whether it was Pakistan or anyplace else, we would pursue those targets."
LAWLESS TRIBAL REGIONS
Obama said on Wednesday if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government.
Pakistan's lawless tribal regions have long been used as a safe haven by al Qaeda and Taliban militants, and Islamabad is under growing pressure from the United States to do more against militant cells there.
A bill Bush is expected to sign ties Pakistan aid to progress against the militants.
Pakistan says its forces are capable of dealing with militants and has repeatedly rejected the idea of U.S. strikes on its territory.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Friday that Pakistan would not allow militants to use its territory against other states, and would not allow foreign forces to operate on its soil.
"The truth is Pakistan, being a sovereign country, will never allow any country to send troops to its territory for any purpose," he told reporters in remarks broadcast by state-run Pakistan Television.
Analysts say unilateral U.S. action in Pakistan could pose a major risk for its ally Musharraf, who is experiencing the weakest period in his eight-year rule after the reinstatement of the country's top judge, whom he had tried to sack.
He also faces a growing militant backlash after an army assault on Islamabad's Red Mosque, a radical Islamist bastion, last month.
More than 200 people, mainly police and soldiers, have been killed in attacks across Pakistan since the mosque assault. The government says 102 people died in the assault.
Last month, militants also scrapped a peace pact with the government in North Waziristan, a known safe haven for al Qaeda fighters and their Taliban allies.
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