Pak to hit Osama on credible intelligence information

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Islamabad, Jun 13: Pakistan will attack al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden the moment it has reliable intelligence information about his whereabouts, ambassador Hussain Haqqani said. Mr Haqqani, recently appointed Pakistan's envoy to US, also said he was confident that Pakistan could help foil any al-Qaeda plans to attack the United States, although he did not know of any right now.

''A cooperative effort between all the allies, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and the NATO -- I think we can thwart any potential plans for an attack,'' The News quoted Mr Haqqani's as saying. The envoy is pressing for more cooperation with the United States on intelligence and wants to convince Washington that Pakistan's new government remains committed to fighting terrorism. He said Pakistani intelligence had helped defeat ''several dozen'' al-Qaeda plots detected worldwide since the September 11, 2001, attacks, but the government officials knew of no immediate threats to the United States. Mr Haqqani said Pakistan would act on its own against al-Qaeda if necessary. ''If Pakistan, Afghanistan or the United States had specific intelligence on the location of Laden, they would have acted on it.

No reservations would have come in the way of action on that, and none will even in the future, he said, adding, ''If any of us had that actionable intelligence we would all act. We would act separately, we would act in tandem, we would act cooperatively -- we would act.'' He, however, said the three countries' intelligence services needed to overcome any disagreements or ''lack of trust'' among them. Mr Haqqani spoke after a US air strike killed 11 Pakistani soldiers at a border post near Afghanistan. He called for an inquiry but said Pakistan did not see it as a hostile act.

Pakistan resists US military operations on its soil and prefers to fight its own anti-terrorism campaigns, the envoy said. ''We do not want more theatres of war in which US and Nato troops are involved, with less and less results.'' But he suggested that intelligence operations, such as the US Predator missile strikes on al-Qaeda targets, were considered differently than operations by regular military forces.

Mr Haqqani declined to discuss any understandings with Washington over predator attacks. He, however, said Pakistan hoped ''if there is a need to deploy technical means available to any of the partners, that that is done with mutual understanding, and not unilaterally.'' The envoy said it was crucial that the United States help the new government gain the confidence of people living on either side of the Afghanistan border. He called for economic assistance and efforts to change a belief that Muslims and Islam were threatened by the West.

''It is very important to change the hearts and minds of people in Pakistan and Afghanistan, because the only way that actionable intelligence will materialise is when people who know of the whereabouts of Laden feel that turning him in is more important than protecting him,'' he said.

UNI

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