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Pakistan's PM Optimistic About Mending Government Rift

Pakistan's new prime minister says he hopes the two main political parties in Pakistan will resolve their differences over how to reinstate judges deposed by President Pervez Musharraf. In an exclusive interview with VOA, Mr. Gilani also vowed his government will continue anti-terrorism efforts, but says it is focused on containing the violence through dialogue rather than the use of force. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

On the day his coalition government was shaken by the departure of a major political partner, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani tells VOA he is optimistic he can rescue their alliance.

The Pakistan Muslim League-N party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left the government Monday citing Mr. Gilani's Pakistan Peoples Party's inability to restore the deposed judges.

Mr. Gilani says that the break is temporary and he hopes the two sides will resolve their differences and the judges will be reinstated.

The Pakistani prime minister dismissed suggestions that the judicial crisis has undermined his focus on the foreign policy issues, particularly efforts to curb militancy.

He says his government is determined to eliminate terrorism and secure the volatile tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. But he says that the use of force alone will not help end militancy in what are known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA.

"The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is over 2,000 kilometers and the terrain is extremely difficult," he said. "Even if we deploy the whole army on the border we will not be able to control the movement across the border. [But] we are trying our best not to allow any foreigners, any terrorists to enter FATA."

Mr. Gilani says that his government believes the militancy in the border areas can be discouraged by bringing economic development, education and health facilities to improve living standards in the underdeveloped regions. In addition, the prime minister says, a policy of holding dialogue with militant forces is also being pursued.

"We will not talk to the militants, those who will not decommission themselves," he said. "The people who are political forces and really want to help us to combat terrorism and extremism, we are talking to them."

Government representatives have been meeting with some tribal leaders to broker a peace deal with militant groups accused of launching attacks both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

American commanders stationed in Afghanistan are concerned that armed raids across the Pakistani border are likely to increase this summer.

Senior U.S. officials in their recent statements have warned that Pakistani tribal regions act as sanctuaries of extremist groups like Taliban and al-Qaida and pose grave threats to the United States as well as the world.