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Pakistani PM in US for White House Talks


Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is in the United States for talks Tuesday with President Bush. The recent U.S. missile strike in eastern Pakistan is sure to be a main topic of discussion, along with efforts to help the victims of last October's south Asia earthquake.

Both sides say they are strong allies in the war on terror. But there has been friction in recent days that is likely to dominate the agenda for the White House talks.

The latest controversy surrounds a U.S. missile strike on a remote village in eastern Pakistan that was reportedly aimed at leaders of al-Qaida.

Information coming from the region has been slow and sketchy. But Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz says he has seen no evidence yet to indicate any terrorists were among the dead.

"We do not know who was there. We do not know when they came, if at all," he said. "But if they were there we will find out because our people are investigating. They are going through all the evidence available. And once we find out, we will share it with the world."

Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, Prime Minister Aziz said his government had no prior knowledge of the attack. He dismissed the notion the Bush administration, while confident of the top Pakistani leadership, feared lower level intelligence and military officials might be sympathetic towards al-Qaida.

"And if you go back in terms of the number of people captured, many have been captured in joint operations with the United States and other countries and Pakistan, so why not now? If we have worked together, we should work together to get as many people as we can into the hands of the law enforcing agencies because these people are no friends of anyone," said Aziz.

The Pakistani prime minister said for two years, Pakistan has had troops in the remote tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan looking for members of al-Qaida and other foreign fighters. He denied a front-page report in The New York Times newspaper that the militants are stronger than ever.

"This is one of the world's worst terrains," said Aziz. "There are no roads. There in no communication system. And we are there out of conviction because we think fighting the war on terror is good for Pakistan and good for the rest of the world."

Prime Minister Aziz acknowledged that recent events have created a sense of outrage among Pakistanis that has prompted anti-American demonstrations. But he noted continuing U.S. aid for the victims of last October's earthquake has mitigated some of the anger.

The White House says in addition to the war on terrorism and earthquake reconstruction, the talks Tuesday will also focus on bilateral trade and economic ties.

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