Pakistan’s nukes safe, need help in war against terror: Zardari (Roundup)

May 8th, 2009 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Washington, May 8 (IANS) Seeking to reassure the US that Pakistan had full control of its nuclear weapons and that a military operation against extremists would continue till normalcy was restored, President Asif Ali Zardari also made a forceful plea for international help in the war against terror.
Zardari also hoped to build better relations with India after its parliamentary elections and that “if our American friends can help us, they’re welcome to.”

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee here Thursday, Zardari said: “I have attested to the fact that our nuclear capability is in safe hands.

“All of the responsible authorities” in and out of Pakistan “are availed of the situation,” he added.

Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to defeating terrorists threatening the country’s stability, Zardari said an operation against militants announced by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad “will go on till the situation returns to normal.”

Speaking at a dinner Thursday evening, Zardari said Pakistan was “up to” the task of rooting out the menace of terrorism with the help of sustained international support.

“I can assure the world on behalf of the people of Pakistan that we are up to the task. Just help us,” APP quoted him as saying Thursday at a dinner hosted in his honour by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani.

“Get us the capability and we can defeat the common enemy for a better tomorrow for our children and the coming generations,” he added.

According to Zardari, terrorism had inflicted huge suffering on the Pakistani people and exacted a high economic cost. Democracy was the cure to the problems besetting the region, he contended.

“It is a regional problem. It is not an Afghan-initiated problem. It is not a Pakistan-specific problem. It’s a new war, the war of the 21st century.”

Zardari pointed out that his slain wife, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, had warned then US President George Bush (senior) in 1989 that “we had all created a monster and it will come back to bite us”.

“It bit us all economically. It bit me personally. It has bit Pakistan. It has bit a lot of people personally. A lot of people have felt this pain.

“Can we defeat this menace? Yes. Let me assure all, together we can but individually I cannot. It is not an easy job to do,” Zardari maintained.

Zardari and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai had Thursday met over lunch on Capitol Hill with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to continue a dialogue that began Tuesday with three-way talks at the State Department, followed by meetings Wednesday at the White House.

The talks focused mainly on ways to implement President Barack Obama’s new Afghan war strategy and on ways to simultaneously fight the insurgency in Pakistan.

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman John Kerry, who co-hosted the lunch with Lugar, said at a news conference that Zardari and Karzai exhibited a realistic approach to the problem of defeating Al Qaeda and allied extremist groups.

“All of the senators who were present today were encouraged by the reality with which both presidents addressed the questions and summarized the challenges,” Kerry said.

Kerry, who has co-sponsored a five year $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan along with Lugar, said he hoped the Senate and the House would be able to overcome the differences between their bills for providing assistance to Pakistan.

US special envoy Richard Holbrooke said another trilateral meeting would be held after the Afghan elections. He said the CIA and FBI chiefs also participated in the meeting with the senators.

The aim was to promote “real cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan because without that cooperation success is not achievable,” he said. “We have a lot of confidence on how to pull that together, we have a sense of urgency, but we can’t give you a precise date.”

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