|UNDER PRESSURE President Asif Ali Zardari warned that the surge in missile attacks since August was hurting Pakistan's own fight against the militants.|
Pakistani seeks review of US policy
Wants Obama to look at strikes
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's leader said yesterday he expects President-elect Barack Obama to reevaluate the need for US military strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban targets on Pakistan's side of the Afghan border.
In an interview with the Associated Press, President Asif Ali Zardari warned that the surge in missile attacks since August was hurting Pakistan's own fight against the militants - a campaign he said was succeeding nonetheless.
The 52-year-old president is under intense US pressure to take firmer action against militants in the rugged and lawless northwest border zone, a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and what many consider to be the global front line in the fight against Al Qaeda.
In what is seen as a sign of American frustration with Islamabad's perceived inability to deal with the militants, the US military is believed to have carried out at least 18 missile attacks on suspected militant targets close to the border in Pakistan since August.
The missiles are believed to be fired from unmanned planes launched in Afghanistan, where some 32,000 US troops are fighting a resurgent Taliban insurgency.
Zardari said he believed Obama would reexamine that strategy, but acknowledged that the Democrat - who struck a sometimes-hawkish tone on dealing with Pakistan during the election - may continue with the attacks.
Obama has openly supported US strikes in the lawless and rugged border region, and has questioned whether Pakistan has done enough to fight militants despite receiving billions of dollars in US aid since 2001.
During the campaign, Obama said that if he is elected, he could launch unilateral attacks on high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan as they become exposed and "if Pakistan cannot or will not act" against them.
"I think there is definitively going to be a new look at all the issues that have been on the table of the United States, and this is one of the large issues," said Zardari, who sat in front of two photos of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, a US-allied moderate Muslim leader who was killed by suspected Al Qaeda militants in December 2007 as she campaigned in parliamentary elections.
Zardari took over Bhutto's party after her death and was elected president in August, facing a crushing economic crisis and soaring violence by militants also blamed for attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The US attacks have killed some militants, but many of the dead have been civilians, including women and children, stoking anger among locals, Pakistani officials say.
"We feel that the strikes are an intrusion on our sovereignty, which are not appreciated by the people at large, and the first aspect of this war is to win the hearts and minds of the people," Zardari said.
Washington rarely comments on the strikes, but General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said last week that the recent attacks had killed three extremist leaders.
Pakistan insists it is taking on the militants, pointing to a military offensive in the Bajur tribal district that has killed 1,500 suspected insurgents since August.