Rice tells Pakistan to act against militant threat

US Secretary of State calls for 'resolve and urgency'
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The Independent Online

Pakistan came under renewed pressure yesterday to respond to accusations over the Mumbai terror attacks when the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, called for "resolve and urgency" in bringing those responsible to justice.

She said even if the Pakistan government was not involved, it still bore a "matter of responsibility" for militant groups based in the country.

A week after 10 gunmen embarked on a series of attacks at locations across Mumbai that left about 180 people dead, 10,000 people gathered in the city to remember the victims and demand action from politicians.

Ms Rice arrived in Delhi to show "solidarity with India and to restate the US's wish for decisive action from Pakistan. "I have said that Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency, and co-operate fully and transparently," she said. "I think we should refrain from speculation about what the Pakistani government might do in response to specific requests, because what has to happen here is there has to be a real sense of transparency, a real sense of action, a real sense of urgency."

The outgoing Secretary of State, who has apparently already briefed President-elect Barack Obama about the Mumbai attacks three times, is due to visit Pakistan today where she will demand action from its politicians. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived last night for talks with Pakistan's military leaders.

The Bush administration, which has provided up to $10bn in military aid to Pakistan since 2001, has so far refrained from specifying what action would be appropriate. But Ms Rice yesterday stressed the need for a full investigation in which both the US and Britain were prepared to help. She said that even if Islamabad had played no part – as President Asif Ali Zardari has repeatedly stated – Pakistan must accept some responsibility if the attack "is related to your territory".

Indian investigators have blamed the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for carrying out the attacks. The Indian government has asked Pakistan to hand over a list of 20 fugitives it says are at large in the country, including Dawood Ibrahim, a Mumbai underworld leader, and Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani Muslim cleric released from jail in India in exchange for hostages from a hijacked plane.

Pakistan says that if there is evidence to convict the men they should be tried by its own courts. Speaking on CNN, President Zardari said he doubted that the sole surviving gunman was Pakistani. "If we had the proof, we would try them in our courts, we would try them in our land and we would sentence them," he said. "I think these are stateless actors who have been operating throughout the region. The gunmen, plus the planners, whoever they are, they are stateless actors who are holding hostage the whole world."

Observers in Pakistan say that while the government may wish to co-operate with India, it would not wish to be seen to be pressured by the authorities in Delhi. "I think there is a sense here that Pakistan should co-operate and there is great sympathy [for the people of Mumbai]," said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a political analyst at Lahore University of Management. "But the way that India has reacted, by putting pressure on Pakistan and saying there is no difference between the state or institutions or other such [things], is something that hurts."