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U.S. military can't hunt for bin Laden on Pakistani soil, official says

There are no covert U.S. military operations looking for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and the government will not allow any "foreign intrusion" on its soil to search for him, a senior government minister says.

There are no covert U.S. military operations looking for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and the government will not allow any "foreign intrusion" on its soil to search for him, a senior government minister says.

"There are none," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Associated Press in an interview. "It will create such an anti-U.S. feeling in Pakistan that I would say would mar the atmosphere of co-operation that exists between us."

He said the country's new government has also ruled out allowing any foreign operations inside the country to catch militants.

"Our government's policy is that our troops, paramilitary forces and our regular forces are deployed in sufficient numbers. They are capable of taking action there. And any foreign intrusion would be counterproductive," he said Saturday. "People will not accept it. Questions of sovereignty come in."

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border region. He said he didn't think bin Laden was in Pakistan.

"I'm not sure. Nobody's aware of that. Nobody can speak with certainty," Qureshi said. "But our policy's very clear. We are allies in this war. And if Pakistan has actionable information vis-a-vis Osama bin Laden or any other high value target, Pakistan will immediately take action."

But the U.S. has used remotely piloted drones to launch a number of attacks on targets in Afghanistan and along its rugged border with Pakistan.

The new civilian government has been negotiating with tribal elders to secure peace with militants along the Afghan border in hopes of curbing a surge in violence. It is a step back from what were considered the heavy-handed tactics pursued by the previous government led by supporters of President Pervez Musharraf.

Qureshi described Pakistan's counterterrorism as a "grassroots" approach.

"Our strategy is that the military option alone is not enough," he said. "This war has to be fought besides the armies, with the help of the people, by winning hearts and minds."

 

With files from the Associated Press