Sunday, January 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak, US troops clash again
Musharraf talks to Bush
Muhammad Najeeb

Islamabad, January 4
Pakistani paramilitary troops exchanged fire for the third consecutive day with the US-led allied forces deployed across the border in Afghanistan as senior Pakistani and American officials held telephonic talks to defuse the tense situation.

“We are continuing talks with the US officials at different levels to defuse the tension,” a senior official at the Foreign Office told IANS Saturday.

Without giving details, he hoped that the situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border would return to normal “very soon.” President Pervez Musharraf, according to reports, held telephonic talks with President George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“The talks are continuing at the junior levels as well to normalise things,” said the official. On the other hand, a journalist based near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border said the situation was still tense with troops from both sides exchanging fire even on early Saturday morning.

“The firing on Saturday morning started after a rocket landed near a militia checkpost in Pakistani territory from across the border,” Sailab Mesud, a correspondent of the Jang daily, told IANS over phone.

He said Pakistani paramilitary troops in retaliation fired back, after which the allied troops also fired with automatic weapons.

Quoting local people, Mesud said that helicopters and planes of the allied forces had continued circling the area since early Friday, giving rise to fears that an air raid might follow.

He said the Pakistani authorities had sent more contingents of scouts, militia and the army to the border areas near Angoor Adda as the situation was very tense there.

Afghan and allied troops had set up a checkpost near Angoor Adda, which prompted the exchange of fire between the Pakistanis and American forces. Pakistani army troops have closed all traffic from Wana to the border areas, said Mesud. IANS



USA: Pak part of world consensus on Iraq

Washington, January 4
The USA has said Pakistan is “currently part of the global consensus that Iraq cannot be allowed to develop weapons of mass destruction.”

“We would expect to continue to work with Pakistan in that regard,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters here yesterday.

Asked about the anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan and warnings by a leader of Islamists that if there is a war against Iraq, Americans will not be safe in Pakistan, Mr Boucher said, “Political parties in Pakistan have organised these demonstrations. We understand they have been orderly.

“Probably several thousand people have attended. Pakistanis and others certainly have the right to demonstrate and express their political beliefs.”

Apparently suggesting that the views held on the streets of Pakistan are different from those of the rulers of the country, Mr Boucher said, “I think on a broader scale it is quite clear — the international community has made clear — that Iraq, in its attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, constitutes a menace to world peace.

“Pakistan is part of that global consensus and we look forward to continuing our cooperation with Pakistan.”

On Pakistan becoming non-permanent member of UN Security Council from January 1, Mr Boucher said: “I am sure we have been in touch with the Pakistanis about their membership in the Security Council. We have generally done that with all Security Council members and new Security Council members as we start new terms, as we start a new year.”

As far as demonstrations in Security Council member countries, “if I am not mistaken, I believe there might have been some demonstrations in other Security Council countries as well at various times — even in this one,” he said.

Asked whether he was suggesting that the demonstrations against the USA in Pakistan lack mass support, Mr Boucher said he was stating “just the facts.” PTI


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