Pak shouldn't allow terrorists to go scot-free under garb of peace deals, says Rice

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Washington, June 20 : United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has reportedly said that Pakistan had every right to deal with militants in its Tribal Areas, but it must also ensure that terrorists are not allowed to operate with impunity in the region.

Rice said that terrorists were a threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US and "we have a common objective" in the region, so they should not be allowed to develop safe havens for themselves in the region.

"It is obviously the sovereign state of Pakistan's right to handle the situation, but we've made very clear that terrorists cannot be harboured, and that terrorists cannot operate with impunity," the Daily Times quoted her as saying at the Heritage Foundation last evening.

She said that the US respected the situation on ground in the region (read Pakistan-Afghanistan border), and hoped that when given a choice people would prefer the moderates.

She said that the US government was ready to work with the Pakistan government to resolve the crisis in its tribal areas. "We're trying to develop with the government a positive agenda for that region. And, we have to remember that the region wasn't governed for years and years and years. And so the positive agenda is to work in this very poor region with aid projects and with ways to give the people a better choice. After all, in some of the toughest areas, when allowed to vote, they did not vote for extremist parties, so there's something there to work with," she added.

She added her country supported revival of democracy in Pakistan. "We were strong advocates for a democratic election in Pakistan, and we're working with this new civilian government. It's a step forward for Pakistan."

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