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Sunday 24 June 2018

Calls in Pakistan for 'balanced response' to Donald Trump's criticism

Pakistan's army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor addresses a news conference in Rawalpindi (AP)
Pakistan's army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor addresses a news conference in Rawalpindi (AP)

Pakistan is ready to face any US action in the wake of President Donald Trump's tweet on New Year's Day threatening the country, the defence minister and the army spokesman said.

Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir said on Thursday there should be "no doubt or fear as the defence of Pakistan is in competent and strong hands".

Earlier, army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan's response will be in line with the wishes of the Pakistani people.

Mr Trump has accused Islamabad of providing a safe haven for terrorists.

On Monday, he tweeted that the United States had "foolishly" given Pakistan more than 33 billion US dollars in aid in the last 15 years and had got nothing in return but "lies & deceit".

Washington confirmed it will withhold 255 million US dollars in US military aid to Pakistan this year, a threat first issued last August when Mr Trump announced his Afghan policy which took aim at Pakistan and demanded an end to Islamabad's alleged support for the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan denies supporting militants, pointing to its own war against extremist groups battling to overthrow the government.

In contrast to recent visits by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis who spoke of "engagement and trust-building during their visits here ... now President Trump and Vice President Pence are talking of threats, insults and 'putting Pakistan on notice'," Mr Dastagir said.

"We have to develop our strategy cool-headedly."

Ayaz Sadiq, speaker of the lower house of parliament, told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the parliament's national security committee that they discussed the situation following Mr Trump's tweet and that a follow-up meeting will decide on the "strategy".

"A balanced response is needed that would preserve the country's dignity while engaging with the US," Mr Sadiq said.

On Wednesday night, Mr Ghafoor told local Geo TV that Pakistan wants to continue cooperation with the US but will not "compromise on national interests and prestige".

"Allies don't fight," he said, adding "the US should realise how Pakistan has been cooperative in the war against terror".

Pakistan says much of the money it received from the US came as reimbursement in coalition support for services the country provided in the war on terror.

It says the US still owes Pakistan nine billion US dollars in the coalition support fund.

The uneasy US-Pakistan relationship has been on a downward spiral since the 2011 US operation that killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.

AP

Press Association

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