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Pakistan unmoved by US pressure

Associated Press / October 25, 2010

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister said yesterday that his country will deal with a key Taliban sanctuary along the Afghan border on its timetable despite increasing US pressure to move swiftly to help turn the war in Afghanistan around.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke after returning from Washington for the latest round of high-level strategic talks with the Obama administration. His comments indicated a new $2 billion military aid package offered by the United States did little to change Pakistan’s strategic calculus.

“We have our own priorities. We have our own sense of timing,’’ said Qureshi when asked about US pressure to launch an offensive against Taliban militants in the North Waziristan tribal area who regularly attack foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The United States believes an operation in North Waziristan is key to success in the Afghan war because the area serves as the main base for the Haqqani network, a militant group that military officials have said poses the greatest threat to troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has resisted taking action. Analysts say the country is reluctant to target militants with whom it has historical ties and who could be useful allies in Afghanistan once foreign troops withdraw. The United States tried to encourage Pakistan to intensify its fight against extremists during the recent talks.

Today, officials said at least five people were killed when a bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded at the gate of a famous Sufi shrine in central Pakistan during morning prayers. The bombing at the Farid Shakar Ganj shrine was the latest in a string of attacks targeting Sufi shrines in Pakistan. Islamist militants often target Sufis, whose mystical practices clash with their hard-line interpretations of Islam.

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