Pakistan denies media report on covert US operation

By Xinhua

Islamabad : Pakistan Sunday dismissed a US media report about US covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan as “baseless”.

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The report carried by The New York Times Sunday edition said US President George W. Bush’s senior national security advisers were debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the military to conduct more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

A local TV channel quoted Pakistani military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad as saying that Pakistani security forces were capable of maintaining peace in the country. He described the report as baseless.

According to the US daily, the debate was a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban were intensifying efforts to destabilize the Pakistani government.

The New York Times said Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of the US strategy after the assassination of former Pakistani premier and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto 10 days ago.

There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb 18 elections in Pakistan, and the aftermath of those elections, the report said.

Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq said that he was not aware of any meeting mentioned by The New York Times and added that none of the speculative stories needed reaction.