Musharraf 'very angry' with Karzai, rules out joint US-Pak operations
Apr 15, 2007 - 10:34:23 AM
Washington/Islamabad/Sydney, Apr 15 - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has hit out at his Afghan counterpart, saying he is 'very angry' at criticism of Pakistani progress in fighting cross-border terrorism in a continuing war of words between the two South Asian neighbours.
He has also ruled out 'absolutely and totally' any joint US-Pak joint military operations, telling CBS news channel in an interview, 'the whole population of Pakistan will rise against it.'
'Pakistan is being maligned by the West ... unfairly' in criticism that it is not doing enough to root out terrorists on its soil and to help crush the Taliban in Afghanistan.
He blamed the criticism on a 'total lack of understanding of the environment and reality by President - Karzai himself.'
Asked if he was 'angry' with Karzai, he replied: 'Yes, indeed. Very angry.'
He dismissed as 'absolute nonsense' a claim by Karzai that the wanted Taliban leader Mullah Omar was hiding in Pakistan. 'He is in south Afghanistan somewhere. He is not in Pakistan, although President Karzai and everyone keeps saying he is in Quetta - absolute nonsense, absolute total nonsense - he has never been in Pakistan.'
The two have used diplomatic channels and media to attack each other, despite efforts, including by US President George W. Bush who hosted a dinner for them last autumn.
Karzai's two meetings with Musharraf's trusted deputy, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in New Delhi last year have also not helped bridge deep distrust and differences.
Musharraf said Pakistan was following the correct strategy in the war against terrorism. 'Even if we are succeeding 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, the direction is correct, end goal is correct, strategy is correct,' he said.
In response to a question about Al Qaeda leaders remaining 'free to operate', the president said 'they are in the mountains and there are people who support them and hide them and these mountains are inaccessible ... even the British never went in.'
The Daily Times said he brushed aside reports that US Vice President Dick Cheney had visited Islamabad last month to 'pressure' the country to do more in the fight against terrorists.
Asked why the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan have not been able to trace terrorists despite sharing intelligence, he said, 'We are trying to locate them by all possible means, and we are not being able to - it is as simple as that. They are in the mountains and we do not even know whether they are in Afghanistan or on our side and they keep shifting.'
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has written to Musharraf asking him to do more to stop Taliban fighters crossing from Pakistan into southern Afghanistan, where Australian troops are being sent.
As Australia prepares to double its troop commitment in Afghanistan, Howard said in a letter to Musharraf that the Taliban flow from Pakistan threatened the lives of Australian troops sent to Oruzgan province, The Weekend Australian newspaper reported Sunday.
The newspaper says before the new commitment of troops, the head of the Australian Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, was forced to engage in difficult and lengthy negotiations with Dutch counterpart, General D.L. Berlijn, over the rules of engagement.
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