Zardari defends Pakistan role

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 3 (UPI) -- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says any suggestion that Pakistan is protecting terrorists is "baseless speculation."

In an opinion piece in Tuesday's Washington Post, in the wake of an operation in which U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a sprawling compound inside Pakistan, Zardari strongly defended Pakistan's role in fighting terrorism.


The article appears while questions are being asked how or why the Pakistani government hadn't known about the world's most wanted terrorist living in a million-dollar compound in Abbottabad, northeast of Islamabad, where he was killed Monday. The compound is near the Pakistan military academy.

Zardari in his Post article said the U.S. operation wasn't a joint one but that "a decade" U.S.-Pakistan cooperation and partnership led "up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world,"

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He said Pakistan takes "some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaida courier ultimately led to this day."

"Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing," Zardari wrote. "Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact. Pakistan had as much reason to despise al-Qaida as any nation."


The Pakistani leader said Pakistan perhaps "is the world's greatest victim of terrorism."

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As for bin Laden, Zardari wrote, "He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be but now he is gone."

Zardari thanked both U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their appreciation of Pakistan's efforts.

"Pakistan has never been and never will be the hotbed of fanaticism that is often described by the media," he wrote.

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