Washington defends Nancy's views
25 January 2003
WASHINGTON: The State Department said on Friday that it was not worried about calls for the expulsion of US ambassador Nancy Powell from Islamabad and that her views on terrorism were not different from those of President Pervez Musharraf. The department's remarks, made at an official briefing in Washington on Friday, came a day after Ambassador Powell was quoted in the Pakistani press as criticizing Islamabad for allowing infiltration into Kashmir. Her remarks caused an angry reaction in Pakistan where some religious and political groups blamed her for interfering in the country's internal affairs and urged the government to expel her. The State Department described the demand for her expulsion as 'not serious' and said she was misquoted in the Pakistani press. Departmental spokesman Richard Boucher, however, said he was not sure if the ambassador was called to the Pakistan foreign office and given a protest note over her statement. 'I haven't heard of it,' he said. Ms Powell, while addressing a gathering in Karachi on Wednesday, had urged the Pakistani government to stop infiltration and prevent the country from being used as a platform for terrorists. 'She made (these) remarks in a speech in Karachi where she echoed the remarks of President Musharraf in January last year, when he said that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world,' Mr Boucher said. 'And that has been a pledge that we've taken seriously and something that we've continued to work with Pakistan on,' he added. Asked if Pakistan was still allowing its territory to be used for cross-border infiltrations into Kashmir, the spokesman said that since May last year, 'we've seen a lot of steps on the part of the Pakistani government, but there's always more work ... that they are doing and that we need to do with them.' 'On the subject of infiltration, as you know, we said infiltration has gone down and come back up somewhat.' Explaining the ambassador's remarks, Mr Boucher said 'My understanding is she said yes, that President Musharraf has made assurances that it will stop, and that is something we work with him on. We do believe infiltration should stop completely, and that's an issue that we do continue to work with the government of Pakistan.' Some reports in the US media said that Pakistanis interpreted her advice to stop infiltration as implying that Pakistan had not fulfilled its pledge to stop it and that's why they were offended. Commenting on these reports, Mr Boucher said 'What we have said and what she said, and what I think President Musharraf has said, all of us, is that this is important to accomplish and that it's an ongoing process of working on it.' Asked if this could be a subject of conversation when Secretary of State Colin Powell meets Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri in Washington next week, Mr Boucher said 'I don't think it's any major conversation, no.' He said he had not heard of any contact between Islamabad and Washington over the ambassador's remarks and was not worried about calls for her expulsion. 'I think this is a matter where she and President Musharraf have a clear understanding of our work together and what needs to be done. And as I said, she's really echoing remarks that he's already made,' Mr Boucher said.