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Pak salt on US cut: No troops ‘at any cost’

Islamabad, Oct. 26 (Reuters): Pakistan today said it had told the US it would not send any troops to Iraq, the state news agency reported.

Information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) as saying it had been made clear to the US that “Pakistan will not send its troops to Iraq at any cost”.

Pakistan had already ruled out sending troops to join the multinational peacekeeping force after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, without the consent of the Iraqi people. Analysts have said sending troops to a fellow Muslim country would lead to problems at home for Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf.

APP quoted Ahmed as saying at the silver jubilee celebrations of an Urdu language newspaper that the Muslim community was “undergoing a very difficult period of its history” and Pakistan had to be “very cautious to steer itself out of the crisis”.

Envoys tour border

In an apparent attempt to stem the growing tide of international criticism that it was not cracking hard on al Qaida militants, Pakistan has taken top Islamabad-based diplomats on a conducted tour of the Pak-Afghan border claiming that its troops killed 10 militants and detained 230 others in recent operations.

Corps commander Lt General Ali Muhamad Aurakzai told a team of foreign diplomats that three phases of the operation Al Meezan, which was launched on October 2, have been completed while the fourth phase is on.

During the operation 10 militants were killed and 230 al Qaida suspects detained, Aurakzai was quoted as saying by official APP news agency.

The ambassadors, high commissioners and diplomats, who visited the agency belonged to Russia, Sweden, Egypt, Brazil the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Iran, China, UK, Turkey. Indian diplomats, however, were not invited.

The tour of top diplomats followed criticism by the US and the international media that Pakistan was not cracking hard on Taliban and al Qaida militants who regrouped in Afghan borders, specially in the inaccessible tribal areas.

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