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Mumbai attacks: Rice expects ‘robust’ Pakistan response

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS,

Islamabad : US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday she expected a “robust” response from Islamabad to the Mumbai terror attacks, while Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari promised to assist in the investigation into the strikes.

“The global threat of extremism and terrorism has to be met by all states, taking a very tough and hard line, and so that is what I am going to discuss,” Rice told reporters on the flight to Islamabad from Delhi.

She repeated the message in Islamabad, prompting Zardari to promise “strong action”.

“The government will also take strong action against any Pakistani elements found involved in the attack,” a statement from the presidential office quoted Zardari as telling Rice.

“Pakistan is determined to ensure that its territory is not used for any act of terrorism,” Zardari told Rice.

On her part, at a media briefing at the Chaklala air base in adjacent Rawalpindi after her talks with Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and senior army officials, Rice said: “I found the Pakistani leadership very focused and committed.”

Rice was here on a day’s visit after travelling to New Delhi Wednesday to express US solidarity with India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks that killed 172 people and injured 248.

Among those she met here were Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Rice said Pakistani officials said they would “extend full cooperation” in the Mumbai investigations.

Pakistan should act urgently and actively, Rice said and added that US would extend its full cooperation and assistance to Pakistan whenever and wherever needed.

To a question whether New Delhi shared any evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks, she replied: “Let me make clear that there is lot of information that can be shared.”

Rice said the lines of communication between Pakistan and India should remain open and both countries should further improve their relations. She said both Pakistan and India have the commitment and capacity to deal with terrorists.

Rice termed the Mumbai blasts “terrible yet highly sophisticated”, not earlier seen in this region, and stressed the need for urgency to bring the perpetrators to justice.

US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher accompanied Rice during her talks with Pakistani leaders.

Saying that the Mumbai attacks were alarming and that all sides need to work together to prevent such strikes in future, Rice said: “Everybody wants to prevent further attacks.”

“Pakistan and the Pakistani leadership understands the importance of doing that, particularly in rooting out terrorism and rounding up whoever perpetrated this attack,” she said.

Rice avoided a direct answer to a question on media reports that India may attack the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiba that New Delhi blames for the terror strikes. She said Pakistan was ready to cooperate with India and “I believe negotiations should remain open.”

Though all roads to Islamabad from the military headquarters where Rice met Kayani were closed for the public, she was flown from the GHQ to the presidency in a helicopter amid high security in the city that has seen several blasts since January, including the one in September that killed about 50 people at the Marriott Hotel.

Referring to Pakistan-India relations after the Mumbai attacks, Rice said these were improving, and with cooperation these should move forward with the exchange of information and bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts to justice.