US rejects new Pakistani government intended talks with militants
( dpa )- A senior US official on Thursday opposed the new Pakistani government's intended talks with pro-Taliban militants who have launched a series of suicide attacks on security forces in recent months.
"I don't see how you can talk to those kind of people," said US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, adding they "want to destroy our way of life."
The visiting envoy said the "extremist threat" in Pakistan is a cause of great concern.
"It occurs not only in federally administered tribal areas but it has spread to the settled areas," he told reporters in the southern city of Karachi at the end of his four-day visit to the country.
Pakistan's tribal areas are believed to be safe havens for al- Qaeda and Taliban militants, who fled to the area after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Initially, the foreign fighters and their local supporters used the region to launch cross-border attacks on NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
But they began targeting government forces when President Pervez Musharraf deployed more troops to curb militant activities, mainly over US pressure.
More than 1,000 people, including hundreds of Pakistani security personnel, have died in the suicide bombings by pro-Taliban militants over the last 12 months.
Pakistan's new coalition government, headed by the slain Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party, has vowed to hold talks with the militants while emphasizing a "comprehensive strategy" in dealing with growing militancy in tribal areas along Afghanistan border.
This could be a departure from the hard-handed policies of President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the war against terrorism, and reportedly the reason for the visit of Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher.
The two officials reportedly tried to convince the new government and the coalition partners, including Musharraf's bitter rival and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, to continue Islamabad's current policies on war against terrorism.
But many in Pakistan view the visit as counterproductive as many see it as American interference.
"The White House and its team must now restrain themselves in further meddling in Pakistan's affairs. The people of Pakistan and their elected representatives must now be left alone to chalk out a brighter future for every one in the country," wrote the liberal English-language newspaper The News.
Another English-newspaper, Dawn, said in an editorial that people had to "suffer the wrath of the militants who identify the (Pakistani) state with the Americans. A discrete stance on the part of US might prove to be slightly more helpful."
Negroponte refuted the impression and said the visit was planned many weeks ago. "There was no hidden agenda, and certainly, no desire to interfere or intervene in any way in the political arrangements that have started to develop," he said.