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Afghan, Pakistani barbs fly over bin Laden

Written by: Staff
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ISLAMABAD, May 15 (Reuters) Pakistan said today that the new Afghan foreign minister's claim that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan was ''absurd'' and, if the al Qaeda leader was alive, he was more likely to be on the Afghan side of the border.

In an interview with Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper published on Saturday, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said Pakistani authorities were making ''half-hearted efforts'' to catch bin Laden.

Reacting at a weekly news briefing in Islamabad, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokeswoman described Spanta's comments as ''outlandish''.

''Nobody knows where Osama bin Laden is. If he is alive the chances are he might be in Afghanistan. But you can't say for sure,'' spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

She said Pakistan had deployed around 80,000 troops on its side of the long, porous border, and was ''doing more than any other country in the war against terrorism.'' ''Afghans need to concentrate on taking action on their side instead of levelling accusations at Pakistan,'' she added.

A war of words erupted between Islamabad and Kabul in February after Afghan said Pakistan was not doing enough to catch al Qaeda and Taliban leaders who had taken refuge on its territory.

Since late last year, a Taliban-inspired insurgency has gathered fresh strength and its fighters have increasingly used suicide bombers to attack US and Afghan troops, along with NATO-led peacekeeping forces.

US and Afghan officials say Pakistan needs to do more to stop militants using Pakistani territory as a springboard for launching attacks inside Afghanistan. Pakistan says US-led coalition and Afghan forces need to do more themselves.

REUTERS SHB BST1852

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