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US can't confirm arrest of LeT terrorists in Pak

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | December 10, 2008 08:42 IST

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Notwithstanding Pakistan's claim that its security forces have arrested Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, suspected to be the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, along with several other key LeT terrorists, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] has said Washington and US intelligence are still to confirm the veracity of these claims.

In an interview with CBS News Radio, Rice said, 'We have not yet confirmed them. We have been told about some of them. I do believe something very important is going on here, but I don't want to have to speak to the details at this point.'

She reiterated that the attacks were definitely launched from Pakistan, saying, 'Certainly we focused very closely, very heavily, when I was in the region on the need for Pakistan to act,' and added, 'These non-state actors clearly used Pakistani territory, and Pakistan therefore had a responsibility to act.'

Rice said, 'We are still gathering reports. We are not yet able to confirm a lot of what we are reading about arrests and about action against the camps, but these are serious steps, ands we are pleased at what appears to be a serious set of steps.'

'And, I want to emphasise, Pakistan is doing this in its own interest as well, because Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism. And, of course President Zardari lost his great wife, Benazir Bhutto [Images], to the terrorists.'

Asked if the attacks by terrorists could have been to divert Pakistani military support to the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan by stirring up tension between India and Pakistan so that Islamabad [Images] would have to move its forces from the Western borders to its Eastern front, Rice acknowledged that 'their first goal was probably to stir up trouble between Pakistan and India, largely because they have been -- these terrorists are undoubtedly unnerved by the increasingly good relations between Pakistan and India.'

'And, so clearly, those who want to disrupt good relations between India and Pakistan were at root,' she said.

Rice added, 'It has the side benefit, of course, of making certain Pakistan remains focused on the old conflict with India and Pakistan, which I believe can be resolved effectively between the parties, rather than on the real threat to Pakistan and Pakistan's neighbours, which is the terrorist threat.'

Asked if her advisers believed this terrorist strike was, in part, to take pressure off al Qaeda, the Secretary said she wouldn't know, but noted, 'We know that bad people tend to travel in the same circles. Nobody is making a claim here that Al Qaeda [Images] is responsible for these attacks or that perhaps they were even involved in them in any way, but ties between these kinds of groups are pretty common.'

Rice said she could say if 'it was to take pressure off Al Qaeda, but clearly, if Pakistan cannot focus on what is the real threat to Pakistan, which is the terrorist threat, and remains focused on a state-to-state threat that is beginning to subside, then it benefits the terrorists.'

'And, I believe that the Pakistani government understands that, the Pakistani military understands that. And this is a very important moment for Pakistan to respond, and that's why we are gratified that clearly some response hasĀ been made.'

Earlier, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, asked if the US would strike at these terrorist camps within Pakistan to avoid India taking such action and sparking a India-Pakistan conflict, said, 'I am trying to shift you to the focus on the diplomacy here. And I think that because that is really where the centre of gravity of the action is right now.'

He said despite Pakistan saying that it would not hand over any of the suspects arrested to India and that Islamabad was ready for war with New Delhi [Images] if the latter decided to attacks Pakistani territory, 'the centre of gravity is really on the diplomacy and effective action to try to bring to justice those responsible and to prevent any further attacks.'

'And, I would note that in that regard, the steps that have been reported that Pakistan has taken are important.'

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