Saturday, August 7, 2010

[wvns] Talks with Taliban never closed

Cameron's remarks termed exaggerated: Door to talks with Taliban never closed: Zardari

Saturday, 07 Aug, 2010

LONDON, Aug 6: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday he's willing to consider negotiations with the Taliban in Pakistan.

Mr Zardari told The Associated Press that Pakistan had never closed the door to talks with the Taliban.

"We never closed the dialogue," President Zardari said, skirting the question of when talks could resume. "We had an agreement, which they broke. Talks will resume whenever they feel we're strong enough and they can't win, because they won't win."

Last year, the government struck a deal with the Taliban in the Swat Valley that gave them effective control over the region. The militants did not abide by the agreement and moved into another region, prompting an all-out offensive by the Pakistani army. Still, some politicians and their supporters support the idea of talking to the Taliban. The United States and Pakistan's other western allies have been urging Islamabad to continue fighting the Pakistani Taliban, not talk to them.

The movement has been behind dozens of bloody attacks inside Pakistan that have killed thousands over the last three years. What the West wants is for Pakistan to expand and go after other groups.

Over the last four years, Pakistan has tried negotiating with militant groups operating in the northwest. But the truces have quickly broken down and allowed them to regroup and emerge stronger.

President Zardari described accusations by British Prime Minister David Cameron and others that Pakistan was exporting terrorism as exaggerated.

He also said the military was doing more than what it ever had.

He dismissed assertions that some in the Pakistani government might know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

The international community had all the modern technology available to it, he said. "We do not have the technology. We do not have the intelligence like they do."

The president urged the international community to equip Pakistan's military with drones and other equipment.

He also called for more help in opening up international markets to Pakistani trade and products.

When asked why so few militants had ever been brought to justice, including those alleged to have killed his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, President Zardari said: "Most of them we don't catch alive."—AP



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