Monday, March 01, 2004

No "quid pro quo"?

Pakistan is denying reports that US soldiers have permission to hunt down bin Laden inside Pakistan:

Pakistan on Monday scorned as "absolutely absurd" a report that Washington tolerated Islamabad's pardoning of a self-confessed nuclear proliferator in order to get US troops on to Pakistani territory to hunt Osama bin Laden.

"There is no 'quid pro quo'," Pakistan's military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP. "Pakistan would never trade its sovereignty for any other issue."

The weekly New Yorker magazine quoted an unnamed United States intelligence official linking the allegedly planned deployment of US troops in Pakistan to the Islamic republic's decision not to prosecute Abdul Qadeer Khan for supplying nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

"It's a quid pro quo," the US official told New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersch.

"We're going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing (Pakistani leader Pervez) Musharraf to deal with Khan."

Pakistani and US troops, operating on separate sides of the 2,500 km Pakistan-Afghanistan border, have launched a fresh spring offensive against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in a stepped-up bid to capture the elusive Al-Qaeda chief.

Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied media reports that US troops will operate on its territory. "Pakistan has said very clearly that on the Pakistani side there will be only Pakistani forces operating," Sultan said.


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