Karzai backtracks on controversial Pak remarks

It was clarified that the reference was to Afghanistan`s willingness to house refugees from Pak in case of a conflict.

Kabul: President Hamid Karzai sought to
distance himself on Monday from controversial remarks made in an
interview in which he said Afghanistan would back Pakistan
against the US if the two ever came to blows.

The presidential palace said Karzai`s comments, made in
an interview with private Pakistani television station Geo at
the weekend, were "misinterpreted".

Karzai has said that his country would support Pakistan
if it was attacked by either the United States or India.
"God forbid, If any time war erupts between Pakistan and
America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan," Karzai said in
an interview aired late Saturday.

The prospect of all-out conflict between the US and
Pakistan remains remote, despite strained relations in recent
months, following the killing of Osama bin Laden by US
commandos in a secret raid in a Pakistani garrison town.

Nevertheless the comments raised eyebrows among Western
officials in Kabul allied to the 10-year campaign to keep the
Taliban from returning to power.

Christopher Chambers, a NATO spokesman, told reporters in
Kabul that "we all need to focus on much wider dialogue that`s
required for peace... and which the people of both countries
mostly certainly want and certainly deserve."

The palace insisted the remarks were broadcast out of
context.

"Pakistani media has misinterpreted it," said the
president`s deputy spokesman Seyamak Herawi.

"They only showed the first part when the president says
Afghanistan will back Pakistan if there is a war."

Instead, the reference was to Afghanistan`s willingness
to house refugees from Pakistan in case of any conflict, in
the way that millions of Afghans are given refuge across the
border in Pakistan`s northwestern frontier region.

"But in connection with the war on terrorism if there is
a war on Pakistan, Afghanistan will not support that," he
further stated.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been
long-tested, with Karzai recently accusing his neighbour of
playing a "double-game" with Afghan insurgents fighting the
US-led war effort who hold bases across the border.

In the Geo interview, Karzai also sought to assuage
Pakistani fears over US influence in the region following the
drawdown of Western combat forces by the end of 2014 and
restated his conditions for a long term US partnership.

Afghanistan`s conditions for a US deal include that
American troops must not enter Afghan homes, implying that
they should end controversial night raids in pursuit of
Taliban targets that have caused many civilian casualties.

PTI

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