(AFP) - Pakistan is not specifically looking for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as there is no proof he is in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf said Sunday.
"We are not particularly looking for him, but we are operating against terrorists and Al Qaeda and militant Taliban. And in the process, obviously, combined, maybe we are looking for him also," the Pakistani leader told CBS television in an interview aired late Sunday.
Asked what Pakistan was doing to find the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Musharraf said it was fighting extremism and terrorism.
"We are fighting first of all Al-Qaeda. Let's take Al-Qaeda. We have arrested or eliminated about 700 Al-Qaeda leaders ... which other country has done this?"
"Well, which other country has Bin Laden?" his CBS interviewer replied, inciting a sharp retort from the Pakistani leader.
"No, I challenge -- I don't accept that at all. There is no proof whatsoever that he is here in Pakistan."
Mahmoud Ali Durrani, Pakistan's envoy to the United States, sought to clarify Musharraf's remark, in an exchange with CNN.
"I think the president is suggesting that neither we, nor the US, has any intelligence where exactly Osama bin Laden is," Durrani said.
"He may be in Afghanistan," the ambassador said. "He may be in the border region. If we knew where he was, we would have taken him out."
Durrani noted that US and other foreign intelligence agencies believe bin Laden to be sheltering in the tribal area along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But "that's just speculation," the envoy said.
"Believe me. If they knew or we knew we would have taken him out," he said.
"And when Musharraf says that he's not specifically looking for Osama, what he really means is that we are totally focused on destroying Al-Qaeda and the Taliban network and not just one person."
The New York Times reported that under a proposal being discussed in Washington, CIA operatives based in Afghanistan would be able to call on direct military support for counter-terrorism operations in neighboring Pakistan.