Pakistan PM Gilani likely to visit US in July

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Islamabad, Jun 2: Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is likely to pay an official visit to the United States in July to hold talks with the American leadership on important regional, bilateral and international issues, with special focus on the ongoing cooperation in the anti-terror war.

President George W Bush's call to the Pakistani leader on Friday was meant to publicly signify that his administration was keen to reassure the new Pakistan government of its continuing co-operation and support. However, it had also made it clear that it continued to remain opposed to any efforts to dislodge President Pervez Musharraf from office, Daily Times reported today.

The Bush administration sees President Musharraf's presence in the government as lending stability to the system. His departure from the scene, it fears, could trigger a period of uncertainty and given the fractured state of the ruling coalition, no one knows ''where the pieces will fly''.

The US is deeply concerned about Pakistan's seeming ''inability'' to stop the tribal regions from being used as an operational base for the Taliban and al Qaeda elements for operations against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

There are serious fears in Washington that the next major attack against the West would be launched from these regions and may already have been conceived and prepared. The US is also extremely uneasy about the new government's decision to negotiate with what Washington considers ''terrorists or potential terrorist groups''.

While it believes that the social and economic development of the tribal areas is essential and has also extended financial assistance for that purpose, it understands it to be only a medium, if not a long-term prospect.

The problem of the area being used as a ''haven'' or a base for terrorist attacks into Afghanistan, Pakistan and the lands beyond is an immediate one and must be dealt with immediately.

While the US is well aware of the extremely negative reaction produced in Pakistan by the unilateral drone attacks in the tribal areas, it is not always willing to share sensitive information with its Pakistani counterparts.

''There are reports that on more than one occasion, when information was shared with Pakistan about the presence of a terrorist individual or group at a given point in the tribal areas, before an attack could he launched, those targeted had been alerted and allowed to move off to safety,'' the newspaper added.

The US continues to believe that there still exist in the Pakistani defence establishment elements that are sympathetic to the very phenomenon of terrorism that the US wants liquidated.

In the recent contacts at the highest levels, Washington has made no secret of the sense of alarm it feels at the ''molly-coddling'' of terrorist elements by some in Islamabad and the less than enthusiastic response to the imminent or existing threats.

At the same time, there is ''much appreciation'' for what Pakistan has done and the ''great sacrifices it has made''. However, Washington would like Islamabad to ''do more'' and it would like ''everyone to be on board'' in fighting terrorism.

UNI

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