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US closely monitoring situation in Pakistan
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | November 03, 2007 22:57 IST
The Bush Administration was scrambling on Saturday morning as news began flashing that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] had declared a state of emergency and suspended the Constitution.
US administration officials told rediff.com that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travelling in Turkey and other senior officials, like Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns in Paris, were trying to get a quick-fix on the situation in Pakistan so as to keep President Bush briefed on the scenario.
The officials acknowledged that the state department was "closely monitoring the situation", and in "constant touch" with the US embassy in Islamabad so as to "get the specifics of the situation," and awaiting Musharaf's expected "address to the nation.
Rice and Burns and other senior officials in the National Security Council were also in touch with the US Ambassador in Pakistan to get "an assessment" and Bush would most likely call Musharraf very shortly.
But some officials and experts acknowledged the administration was focusing on Turkey and the situation with Kurdish rebels and that had taken up most of Rice's diplomacy coupled with her attempts to resurrect peace efforts in West Asia.
Burns is in Paris, trying to build up a consensus to isolate Iran. This has left the US administration largely without a senior point-person to be focused on the situation in Pakistan, notwithstanding the increasing violence in Pakistan and the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda there.
At Friday's briefing, deputy state department spokesman Tom Casey asked about the unravelling situation in Pakistan and the Pakistani Air Force's bombing of tribal areas in supposedly Taliban and al Qaeda locations, gave virtually the standard reaction to recent reports of violence in that country, saying, "In terms of the threat that militants or extremists pose to Pakistan, well again, I think we've talked about this many times before, Pakistan is confronted with a number of extremists --some associated with the Taliban, some associated with al Qaeda--who are intent on destabilising the country and oppose the efforts that Pakistanis themselves are making to expand their own democratic system and to make the kind of positive changes that most Pakistanis want to see."
"Certainly, it's no surprise to us, given the history of extremist action in Pakistan, that they would respond with violence to anything that they do not like or anything that they oppose," he added, and declared, "We are going to work with the Government of Pakistan to help them respond to this challenge and to help us deal with the common threat that these groups pose."