Zardari appeals to India not to perpetrate regional war

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Islamabad,Dec.1 : Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to India not to punish his country for last week's attacks in Mumbai, saying militants have the power to precipitate a war in the region.

In an interview with a British newspaper, Zardari warned that provocation by rogue "non-state actors" posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

"Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, who do you think we are fighting?" asked Zardari.

"We live in troubled times where non-state actors have taken us to war before, whether it is the case of those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on the United States or contributed to the escalation of the situation in Iraq," The News quoted Zardari, as saying.

"Now, events in Mumbai tell us that there are ongoing efforts to carry out copycat attacks by militants. We must all stand together to fight out this menace," he said.

Zardari aired his concerns as a US counter-terrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some "signatures of the attack" were consistent with the work of Pakistani militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed and reported to be linked to al Qaeda.

He, however, emphasised that it was premature to pinpoint who was responsible for the attacks.

Another official, specialising in counter-intelligence, also cautioned against rushing to judgment on the origins of the gunmen who waged a two-and-a-half-day rampage through India's leading commercial center before being killed.

US officials are concerned about a flare-up in animosity similar to one that occurred after Pakistani militants attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001, the officials said.

Underscoring those fears, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called the Foreign Minister of India twice, along with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, since the crisis began.

"There were very worrying tensions in the region. She was calling the president of Pakistan to get his read on how those tensions might be affected," said Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman.

President George W. Bush pledged cooperation with Indian authorities and mourned the deaths of at least 195 people at the hands of gunmen.

Bush was receiving regular updates, White House press secretary Dana Perino said Friday night. Senior administration officials were focused on ensuring that Americans were being helped in every way possible, she said.

Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani said that those who staged the Mumbai attacks were "non-state actors" and this is no time for India and Pakistan to blame each other but to work together to fight terroism.

Haqqani told ABC in an interview on Sunday if India moves its forces to the border with Pakistan, it will leave his country no option but to take steps to defend itself.

Troops will have to be pulled back from the border with Afghanistan "and nobody wants that," the Daily Times reported.

He said the democratic government in Pakistan led by President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani had "gone the extra mile" in reassuring the Indians that both countries being victims of terrorism, this was the time to forget past history and get together.

ANI

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