US welcomes Pak military operation to clear FATA of militants

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Lahore, June 26 : US State Department and Pentagon have welcomed with caution Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's statement of approving a military operation to clear the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of militants.

US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said earlier that the change in government had not changed the nuclear command and control system in Pakistan.

Washington still reposed confidence in Islamabad's ability to handle the country's nuclear set up, he added.

Pentagon Assistant Secretary of Defence said that sending US troops into FATA would be a major mistake.

Gilani on Wednesday had approved the use of force during a high-level meeting at Prime Minister's House that reviewed progress on the war on terrorism and the state of law and order in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas, calling terrorism and extremism as the gravest challenges to national security.

He said that the government would continue negotiations with local elders to isolate hardcore militants.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) would take the lead on deciding when to employ military force, including the Frontier Corps (FC) and the law-enforcement agencies (LEAs).

The NWFP Governor and Chief Minister could also employ the FC and LEAs to maintain law and order.

The NWFP governor would be the chief co-ordinator for all activity in FATA, and would liaison with the government, important political leaders and the local military commander.

All agreements with tribes in FATA will be backed by an enforcement mechanism, with the government reserving the right to use force in case of violation of agreement, the Dawn reported.

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