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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
US backs Pakistan over al-Qaeda
Pakistani troops
Pakistani troops on high alert on the Line of Control
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has expressed confidence that Pakistan will take action against al-Qaeda militants if they are found to be operating in Kashmir.

But Mr Rumsfeld, downplaying earlier comments, said the US had only "scraps of intelligence" from people saying "they believe al-Qaeda are in Kashmir".


The facts are that I do not have evidence and the United States does not have evidence of al-Qaeda in Kashmir

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary
"It tends to be speculative. It is not actionable. It is not verifiable," he told reporters after meeting President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad.

Pakistani officials had emphatically rejected Mr Rumsfeld's assertion in Delhi on Wednesday that there were indications that al-Qaeda fighters were in Kashmir.

Officials complained that he had been duped by Indian propaganda.

Mr Rumsfeld is in the region to try to further reduce the risk of India and Pakistan going to war over Kashmir.

But the US is also anxious that tensions with India should not deflect Pakistan's efforts to hunt down al-Qaeda fighters who have crossed the Afghan border.

India has ruled out any deployment of American troops on its soil in the hunt against al-Qaeda or any monitoring role for the US in Kashmir.

It also says two of its soldiers have been killed by renewed Pakistani shelling across the border in Kashmir.

'Close co-operation'

Mr Rumsfeld appeared to fully back Pakistan's ability to deal with any al-Qaeda threat.

Enlarge image Enlarge map

"The co-operation between the United States and Pakistan is so close and so intimate and so co-operative that... if there happened to be any actionable intelligence as to al-Qaeda anywhere in the country, there isn't a doubt in my mind Pakistan would go find them and deal with them."

Mr Rumsfeld made his comments to reporters in Islamabad after talks with President Pervez Musharraf.

He repeatedly stressed Washington's appreciation for Pakistan's support in the US war against terror.

Mr Rumsfeld also said he welcomed steps being taken by India and Pakistan to pull back from the brink of war.

Key demand

The current tensions between the two nuclear powers began after an attack on the federal parliament in Delhi last December.

Anti-Indian protester in Pakistan
Musharraf has been criticised for cracking down on militants
India blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack, saying they had support from Pakistan's intelligence services.

The two countries have some one million troops amassed along their border.

The key Indian demand to end the crisis has been that President Musharraf should prevent militants crossing into Indian-administered Kashmir to continue their campaign to wrest control of the region from Delhi.

The US accepts that General Musharraf has taken real action to prevent militants crossing the Line of Control in Kashmir.

Pakistan says that amounts to a major concession and that it should be reciprocated.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said he appreciated America's role in trying to calm the situation.

But he said: "We expect more from the United States "to put pressure on India to open a dialogue on Kashmir."

Mr Attar also said there was "no reduction of the threat" from India at present.

Islamabad says recent moves by India, such as allowing Pakistan to use Indian air space, are cosmetic and do not go far enough.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Biles
"Mr Rumsfeld's suggestion has surprised Pakistan"
The BBC's Sussanah Price
"Both sides say they are fully prepared to go to war"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
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13 Jun 02 | South Asia
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