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Pakistan ready to retaliate, India told

MULTAN, Pakistan — Pakistan warned India on Thursday not to launch a strike against it and vowed to respond to any attack, but also sought to defuse tensions with its rival in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

Though the South Asian nuclear powers have engaged in accusations in recent weeks, both sides say they hope to avoid conflict. But India has not ruled out the use of force in response to the Nov. 26 assault, which it blames on a Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"India should refrain from any surgical strike," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said. "It should not commit this mistake, but if it does, Pakistan will be compelled to respond."

The comments follow recent forays by Pakistani fighter aircraft over several of the country's major cities, though Qureshi noted the military has not mobilized its ground forces. Pakistan has also accused Indian fighter jets of violating its airspace, a charge New Delhi denies.

Despite the heightened tensions, Qureshi said Pakistan wants peace with India — with which it has fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947. "We should hope for the best but prepare for the worst," Qureshi said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani echoed the sentiments Thursday and urged the international community to pressure India to defuse the tension.

He also repeated Pakistan's demand that India provide evidence to support its claim that the 10 gunmen who killed at least 164 people in Mumbai last month were Pakistani and had links to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

India has given Pakistan a letter from the lone surviving gunman involved in the attacks, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, reportedly saying he and the nine others were Pakistani. He also asked to meet with Pakistani envoys, but newspapers in Pakistan reported Thursday that the government has rejected the request because it has no record of Kasab as a Pakistani citizen.

Also Thursday, police said they recovered 880 pounds of explosives and more than 500 detonators from a house in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Pakistan ready to retaliate, India told 12/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 2:29pm]

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