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Pakistan Says U.S. Pressure Must End


Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani speaks during an interview with Reuters at his residence in Islamabad on September 27.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that the United States should stop blaming his country for regional instability, declaring "Pakistan cannot be forced to do more" in the fight against militants.

His comments came at an emergency meeting of political and military leaders who gathered in Islamabad to formulate a response to U.S. allegations that Pakistan's intelligence service is supporting insurgents in Afghanistan.

Gilani characterized recent statements by senior U.S. officials as "altogether against the sacrifices and success achieved by Pakistan to fight terrorism and extremism."

"Pakistan cannot be forced to do more. Our national interests should be respected at all costs. Our doors are open for talks," he said.

America's top military officer, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, said last week that Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI, was supporting the Haqqani terrorist network -- one of the most lethal Taliban-allied Afghan groups fighting Western forces in Afghanistan.

Mullen told a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 22, "The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's ISI agency."

He said that with ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted bloody attacks in Kabul this month, including a siege on the U.S. Embassy.

The stunning claim sent already poor relations between Islamabad and Washington plummeting and triggered a nationalist, anti-American backlash across Pakistan, which has denied the allegations.

The angry reaction has even united feuding political leaders. Some 65 heads of both major and minor political parties were expected at today's All Parties Conference.

Senior military and intelligence figures were also planning to attend. The country's intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was scheduled to address the gathering, which was closed to the media, apart from Gilani's opening remarks.

In those remarks, he expressed faith that the country's various factions would collectively oppose any efforts by the United States to move against it.

"I am confident that Pakistan's political leadership and masses are once again determined to safeguard the geographical borders, freedom, and sovereignty of their motherland," he said.

U.S. officials have long talked with Islamabad about links between Pakistan and the militant Haqqani network, which is behind much of the violence in Afghanistan. But the discussions have been mostly held in private, in the belief that Pakistan could gradually be persuaded to cut its purported ties with the group.

Mullen's remarks were followed this week by U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham's (Republican-South Carolina) claims that support is growing in Congress for expanding U.S. military action in Pakistan beyond drone strikes.

The White House has also signaled that its patience may be coming to an end.

At a press briefing on September 28, presidential spokesman Jay Carney said, "The continuing safe havens that the Haqqani network enjoys in Pakistan and the links between the Pakistani military and the Haqqani network are troubling, and we want action taken against them."

U.S. officials are said to be close to deciding whether to designate the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization, and today Washington appeared to take a step closer to that move.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on five people it said have links to "the most dangerous terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

In a statement, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said, "These financiers and facilitators provide the fuel for the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and Al-Qaeda to realize their violent aspirations."

The sanctions prohibit U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with the targeted individuals and freezes any assets they may hold under U.S. jurisdiction.

written by Heather Maher, with agency reports and material from RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

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