Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has dismissed suggestions the United States is trying to dictate anti-terrorism policy to Pakistan's new government. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad the American diplomat made the statement at the end of meetings with Pakistani officials, politicians and military commanders.
Accompanied by another senior State Department official, Richard Boucher, Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte arrived in Islamabad hours before Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was sworn in to lead a new coalition government.
The timing of the visit by two senior American diplomats has outraged many Pakistanis, and newspaper editorials condemned it as "meddling in Pakistan's internal affairs."
Speaking to reporters in Karachi at the end of his visit. Negroponte rejected that criticism, saying the visit was planned two months ago and was meant to reaffirm U.S support for the new Pakistani government.
"There was no hidden agenda and certainly no desire to interfere or intervene in any way in the political arrangements that are developing," Negroponte said. "This suggestion that somehow we expect Pakistan to carry out activities, on our behalf and at our behest, that are not in Pakistan's interest is simply wrong."
Pakistan's new prime minister and top leaders of his ruling coalition have said the country's policy of cooperating with the United States in fighting terrorism will be presented before parliament for approval. They also have called for holding talks with militants fighting Pakistani troops in the remote tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The White House has said it anticipates continued cooperation between the United States and Pakistan.
But Negroponte's visit was being seen by many in Pakistan as an attempt to shore up President Pervez Musharraf.
Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte says the Pakistani prime minister and other officials have assured him of Pakistan's resolve to tackle terrorism. He said there is no single solution to the issue of militancy.
"Security measures obviously are necessary when one is talking about dealing with irreconcilable elements who want to destroy our very way of life. I do not see how you can talk with those kinds of people," Negroponte said. "On the other hand, there are reconcilable elements in any of these situations who hopefully can be persuaded to participate in the democratic political process."
Negroponte rejected a report in the Washington Post newspaper that U.S. forces have recently escalated air strikes against al-Qaida targets in Pakistan's tribal areas. He says Washington only acts in cooperation with Pakistani authorities.
The deputy secretary of state said the United States is funding projects aimed at improving economic and social conditions in the Pakistani tribal regions on the Afghan border as part of efforts to discourage extremism.
The tribal regions are known as safe havens for al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives who are believed to have established bases there to launch cross border attacks on U.S-led forces hunting those militants.