Saturday, 12 January 2008

US incursion to be treated as "Invasion", warns President Musharraf

ISLAMABAD: President Pervez Musharraf warned that US troops would be regarded as invaders if they crossed into Pakistan to hunt the al-Qaeda militants and said he would resign if opposition parties tried to impeach him after the next month’s elections.

The president said this in an interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times published on Friday. Asked if a unilateral intervention would be seen as an invasion, Musharraf replied: “Certainly. If they come without our permission, that’s against the sovereignty of Pakistan.”

“But when you’re talking about Osama bin Laden, any action against him will be free, if we know where he is, if we have good intelligence,” he added. “The methodology will be discussed together and we’ll attack the target together.” But Musharraf said the US army would not do a better job.

“The United States seems to think that what our army cannot do, they can do, this is a very wrong perception,” Musharraf said. “I challenge anybody to come into our mountains. They would regret that day. It’s not easy there.”

Musharraf also criticised US Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s proposal to deploy a US, and possibly a British, team to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Her statement, Musharraf said, was an “intrusion into our privacy, into our sensitivity ... She doesn’t seem to understand how well-guarded these assets are.”

Pakistan is under growing US pressure to crack down on militants in its tribal regions close to the Afghan border. The New York Times reported last week that Washington was considering expanding the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the US military to launch aggressive covert operations within the tribal regions. Several US presidential candidates have also hinted they would support unilateral action in the area.

The president said US troops would “certainly” be considered invaders if they set foot in the tribal regions. A full transcript of the interview was published on the paper’s website. “If they come without our permission, that’s against the sovereignty of Pakistan. I challenge anybody coming into our mountains. They would regret that day,” he said in the interview in Rawalpindi.

Musharraf is also under gathering domestic political pressure. “If that (impeachment) happens, let me assure that I’d be leaving office before they would do anything. If they won with this kind of majority and they formed a government that had the intention of doing this, I wouldn’t like to stick around,” he said. “I would like to quit the scene.

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