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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Pakistan denies Bin Laden 'gaffe'
Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden is blamed for attacks across the world
Pakistan's top army spokesman has insisted government forces will arrest al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden if they find him in the country.

Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan's comments came after a US network broadcast remarks by him saying Bin Laden would remain free if he was "a peaceful citizen".

ABC News recorded the interview after Pakistan struck a deal with pro-Taleban militants on the Afghan border.

Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders are thought to be hiding in the area.

"Pakistan is committed to its policy on war on terror, and Osama caught anywhere in Pakistan would be brought to justice," Gen Sultan told the Associated Press news agency on Wednesday.

He rejected suggestions that the deal meant that Taleban and al-Qaeda leaders had in effect carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan.

As long as one is staying like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody
Military spokesman Shaukat Sultan in the ABC interview

Maj-Gen Sultan's interview with ABC was broadcast hours after the controversial deal was signed in the tribal region of North Waziristan.

Under the accord, tribesmen promise to expel foreign militants and end cross-border attacks in return for a reduced military presence.

Tribesmen have agreed that foreigners who do not leave will have to respect the peace agreement.

But many observers doubt the accord can be enforced, pointing to similar deals in neighbouring South Waziristan which strengthened the hand of Taleban supporters.


ABC News is carrying carried a transcript of part of the interview, in which Gen Sultan appears to contradict himself, on its website:

Q. ABC News: If Bin Laden or [Ayman al-] Zawahri were there, they could stay?

A. Gen Sultan: No-one of that kind can stay. If someone is there he will have to surrender, he will have to live like a good citizen, his whereabouts, exit travel would be known to the authorities.

Q. ABC News: So, he wouldn't be taken into custody? He would stay there?

A. Gen Sultan: No, as long as one is staying like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody. One has to stay like a peaceful citizen and not allowed to participate in any kind of terrorist activity.

Maj-Gen Sultan's latest comments were followed up by a statement from the Pakistani embassy in Washington.

It said he had been "grossly misquoted" and that Pakistan was as committed as ever to apprehending Bin Laden.

"If he is in Pakistan, today or any time later, he will be taken into custody and brought to justice."

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