Pakistanis Rebuke Obama For Military Force Remark

By Rohan Sullivan
Associated Press
Saturday, August 4, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 3 -- A top Pakistani official on Friday called Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama "irresponsible" for saying that, if elected, he might order unilateral military strikes in Pakistan against al-Qaeda. Protesters chanted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an American flag in the street.

Obama's comment on Wednesday heightened anger created here last week by senior Bush administration officials' statements that they would consider such strikes if intelligence warranted them.

Also inflaming the situation was a comment Tuesday by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who is a making a bid for the White House, that the best way he could think of to deter a major terrorist attack on the United States would be to threaten to retaliate by bombing the holiest of Islamic sites, Mecca and Medina.

U.S. officials quickly condemned Tancredo's remarks. "It is absolutely outrageous and reprehensible for anyone to suggest attacks on holy sites, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jewish or those of any other religion," deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

In Miran Shah, a major town in the lawless region that borders Afghanistan, about 1,000 tribesmen condemned recent Pakistani military operations in the area and vowed to repel any U.S. attack.

In Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, about 150 people chanted slogans against the United States, Obama and Tancredo at a demonstration organized by Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of six hard-line religious parties. Protesters set fire to a U.S. flag.

Top officials in the government of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, bristled at Obama's comment. "It's a very irresponsible statement, that's all I can say," Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said. "As the election campaign in America is heating up, we would not like American candidates to fight their elections . . . at our expense."

Bush called Musharraf on Friday to congratulate him on the 60th anniversary of Pakistan's independence. According to a statement from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Bush said that "recent statements emanating from the U.S. regarding possible U.S. action inside Pakistani territory" were "unsavory and often prompted by political considerations in an environment of electioneering."

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