US senator says reassured over Pakistani peace deals
ISLAMABAD May 28 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. senator said on Wednesday that he had been reassured that whatever peace accords were reached with militants, Pakistan would not tolerate them making cross-border attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.
"The United States cannot tolerate cross-border raids into Afghanistan on our troops," Senator Russ Feingold, who serves on the Senate's foreign relations, intelligence and judiciary committees, told a news conference in Islamabad.
"And we are pleased that so many people reassured us that it's not something that Pakistan wants to happen, and more importantly is willing to try to make sure that it no longer happens."
Pakistan last week struck a peace deal with a militant group, sympathetic to the Taliban, that had been fighting Pakistani security forces in the northwestern valley of Swat.
The new coalition government, formed two months ago, has also been negotiating with elders from the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan to bring to heel Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.
By applying pressure on the tribe, the government hopes it will turn against the militants and make them stop fighting.
"If you are dealing clearly with tribal leaders who are peaceful and simply want to make sure that their region is not affected by terrorism or the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, of course they are the people who are appropriate to negotiate with," said Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin.
"But on the other hand, I do oppose agreements with militants. I oppose agreements with the Taliban, I oppose agreements with Al-Qaeda."
Alarmed NATO officials have noted an increase in attacks in Afghanistan while peace talks were underway in Pakistan.
A senior member of the Pakistani government told Reuters that no peace deals have been or would be signed without a clause prohibiting militants from using Pakistan as a launchpad to attack allies' troops in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military says that an offensive in January succeeded in boxing in Baitullah Mehsud, and the army controls all four roads around the mountainous Mehsud territory.
Mehsud, who last year declared himself leader of the Pakistani Taliban, is believed to have been behind a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani authorities and the CIA made him their prime suspect in the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto last December. Mehsud has denied it, and Bhutto's own party harbours its own doubts, and is seeking a U.N. investigation.
Feingold said he had been critical of the previous U.S. policy towards Pakistan, which had rested too heavily on relations with President Pervez Musharraf.
The U.S. senator said he favoured the reinstatement of judges who Musharraf dismissed to protect his presidency during a brief phase of emergency rule last November. (Reporting by Aftab Borka; writing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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