Monday, December 15, 2008

Pakistan rejects British request to grill Mumbai suspects

Pakistan rejects British request to grill Mumbai suspects
1 hour ago

ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has turned down a British request to question suspects arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks, his office said Monday.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Islamabad at the weekend in a bid to calm tensions between Pakistan and India in the wake of the attacks in the Indian metropolis that left 172 dead.

"Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that in his meeting on Sunday with the British Prime Minister, he turned down his request for Britain probing the Pakistanis detained after (the) Mumbai attacks," Gilani's office said.

Gilani was addressing the federal parliament at the beginning of a general debate on the situation arising out of the Mumbai attacks, it said.

"He said he told Gordon Brown that if there were any proofs, these persons will be prosecuted under the law of Pakistan," it said.

In his visit to Islamabad, Brown pledged to help Pakistan "break the chain of terror" after holding talks with President Asif Ali Zardari on security in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

At least one British national died in the 60-hour rampage on India's financial centre late last month, and Brown had said he asked Zardari to allow British police to question Pakistani suspects.

Brown said Britain would work with the government in Islamabad to ensure that terrorists are denied safe haven in Pakistan, and pledged six million pounds (nine million dollars) to help it tackle militancy.

Gilani had earlier Sunday told a reporter in the eastern city of Lahore that once Pakistan had the evidence of proof of involvement of the suspects, then it would consider the request.

"We said that no proof has reached us and when proof will reach us, then (you can) talk to us," he said.

Pakistan's rejection of the British request came as US Senator John Kerry visited India and Pakistan, putting fresh pressure on Islamabad over the Mumbai attacks, saying its powerful spy agency must be brought under control.

Ahead of talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Kerry said Pakistan's Inter Services-Intelligence (ISI) must stop operating independently of the government and end its links with militant groups.

"We would like to see an ISI that is reforming and brought completely under civilian control," the US Democratic Party's 2004 presidential candidate told the Indian Express.

Kerry said the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, which India accuses of planning the Mumbai attacks, was set up by the ISI to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.

After talks with Indian leaders, he said there was "strong evidence" that the Mumbai gunmen came from Pakistan and urged Islamabad to take legal action against the LeT.

"We all know it was planned. It was planned over a period of time. We all know they (attackers) came from Pakistan and we understand the training that took place in that regard. So, there is strong evidence," he said.

Kerry later arrived in Pakistan for what a US embassy spokesman in Islamabad told AFP were "scheduled talks with senior Pakistani government officials on a variety of regional issues."

On his return to Washington, Kerry is expected to brief US president-elect Barack Obama on his talks with the Indian and Pakistani leaders.

Pakistan has arrested key leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba and shut down a charity accused of being a front for the group, freezing its assets and detaining dozens of members.

But it says it will not hand over any suspects to India, saying New Delhi has not yet provided any evidence implicating Pakistanis in the attacks.

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