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US calls Lal Masjid action “internal matter”

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : The United States has warned its citizens about moving around Peshawar but considers Pakistan's response to the siege of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad its internal matter, while refraining to link it with India's 1984 Operation Bluestar military action at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

"Well, I'm not going to try to make any linkage between these two events. I think you have to deal with them in their own right and their own unique circumstances," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Tuesday.

McCormack said the US embassy in Islamabad had issued a message asking American citizens to limit their movements in the Peshawar area for several days.

This, he said, had been done due to non-specific public announcements by terrorists in the Bajaur tribal agency that they plan to unleash attacks on Pakistani police and army institutions in retaliation for recent events at the Lal Masjid complex.

Asked if US played any role in ending the standoff or if Islamabad had asked for any help, he said, "Not that I know of. I don't – I doubt it".

Admitting that there might have been contacts between Washington and Islamabad, McCormack said, "…It's not really an accurate measure. I mean, you know, contacts with them, asking them what happens to be going on, I'm sure occurred, just to get a status update, so people could report back.

"But, I am not aware of any sort of operational linkages and certainly, we are not in the business of telling the Pakistani government when they should or should not end negotiations," he added.

"Of course, everybody wants to see these kinds of situations resolved peacefully. It's everybody's optimal solution. But it is fundamentally a matter for the government to decide when negotiations end and when action needs to take place to bring some sort of resolution to the situation."

To his understanding, McCormack said, "it was a situation where they had exercised any number of opportunities for these individuals to resolve peacefully, yet they persisted and they persisted to the point of using children as human shields.

"If there's anything finally to say about it, any sort of lessons learned, if any, then certainly, we'll offer those if we think it's appropriate."

Meanwhile, the White House too called Islamabad's response to the siege an internal matter. "That's an internal matter for the Pakistani government to address," Scott Stanzel, a spokesman, told reporters on the presidential plane on its way to Cleveland, Ohio.

"What remains clear is, in places throughout the world the threat of extremists is real, but that operation is a matter for the Pakistani government," he added.