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Pakistan Vows Not To Allow Militants To Plot Attacks

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan has said it would neither allow Islamist militants to plot attacks on its soil nor let foreign troops take military action on its territory.

The declaration by leaders of Pakistan's 3 1/2-month-old coalition came amid growing fears that the United States might take unilateral action against Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries in tribal areas on the Afghan border.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called a meeting of his coalition partners to discuss deteriorating security in Pakistan as he prepares for his first official visit to the United States.

While stressing that the main thrust of the government's policy would be "political engagement of the people" to counter militancy, the coalition said it would not allow anyone to challenge its authority.

"Pakistan's national security and internal stability is paramount," the government said in a statement after the meeting. "The coalition partners also reiterated that Pakistan's territory will not be used for terrorist attacks nor will attacks from external forces on Pakistan's sovereign soil be tolerated."

Washington backs Islamabad's strategy of using tribal elders to persuade militants to stop fighting, but worries that Taliban groups have used the breathing space provided by talks to intensify crossborder attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.

Worries Of U.S. Strike

A Pentagon report last month described militants' sanctuaries in Pakistan as the biggest threat to Afghan security.

Residents in Pakistani tribal areas have reported increased activity by pilotless U.S. drones in recent weeks, stoking worries of a U.S. strike against militants on Pakistani territory.

U.S. President George W. Bush last week said he was "troubled" by Al-Qaeda's presence in Pakistan and would discuss it with Gilani when they meet in Washington on July 28.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also accused Pakistan's security apparatus of being behind a string of recent attacks in Afghanistan, including a suicide bombing outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people.

Pakistan has denied involvement.

The new coalition led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was formed after February elections inflicted a humiliating defeat on allies of President Pervez Musharraf.

A split between the PPP and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party over how to deal with Musharraf has paralyzed the government at a time when it is faced with an Islamic militant threat, an economy in trouble and power and grain shortages.

Musharraf has shown no sign of standing down despite growing unpopularity.