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Pakistan aims for calm

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan told India on Saturday that it did not want war and was committed to fighting terrorism — a move apparently aimed at reducing tensions after Pakistan moved troops toward their shared border.

Intelligence officials said Friday that the army was redeploying thousands of troops from the country's fight against militants along the Afghan border to the Indian frontier — an alarming scenario for the West as it tries to get Pakistan to neutralize the al-Qaida threat.

Islamabad also announced it was canceling all military leave — the latest turn of the screw in the rising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors following last month's terror attack on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.

India has blamed Pakistani militants for the terrifying three-day siege. Pakistan's recently elected civilian government has demanded that India back up the claim with better evidence but has also said it is committed to fighting the "cancer" of terrorism.

"We ourselves have accepted that we have a cancer," said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in a televised speech Saturday. "They are forcing their agenda on us."

But in the four months since Zardari took power — picking up the reins of the Pakistan People's Party — Islamist violence has continued largely unabated.

Many analysts have speculated that the assailants who carried out the Mumbai attacks sought to distract Pakistan by redirecting its focus toward India and away from the military campaign against al-Qaida and Taliban militants on the Afghan border.

Pakistan's latest moves, including the troop redeployment, were seen as an indication that it will retaliate if India launches air or missile strikes against militant targets on Pakistani soil — rather than as a signal that a fourth war between the two countries was imminent.

There was no sign of fresh troop movement Saturday.

Pakistan aims for calm 12/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:47pm]
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