Image: Richard Boucher, second left, talks with Yousaf Raza Gilani
B.k.bangash  /  AP
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, second left, talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, Oct 20, 2008.
updated 10/20/2008 9:35:07 PM ET 2008-10-21T01:35:07

Pakistan's new government appears committed to the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban, a top U.S. envoy said while dismissing reports of peace talks with militants in neighboring Afghanistan.

Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher's visit to Pakistan comes amid a surge in violence on both sides of the border and tensions over U.S. missile strikes on targets inside Pakistan.

Some U.S. officials doubt that Islamabad is willing or able to take on the militants and criticized earlier army operations that ended in short-lived peace deals they say gave the extremists time to regroup.

But Boucher said Monday he was encouraged by what he has seen in the border region of Bajur, where Pakistani troops launched a major offensive in August that officials claim has killed 1,000 militants.

"I think it is good Pakistan is taking serious military action against the terrorists," Boucher told reporters after three days of meetings with Pakistani leaders, including the president. "We have seen the government has shown the determination and willingness to see this through to the end."

Militants step up suicide attacks
The militants have put up strong resistance to the offensive and have stepped up suicide attacks around the country, including last month's blast at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad that killed 54 people.

The insurgents have also been blamed for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan, where violence is at a record high, leading many to doubt whether the seven-year-old war there can be won.

Boucher dismissed reports of peace negotiations between the government and Taliban in Afghanistan after militants sat down with Afghan officials in Saudi Arabia last month.

"At this point I can say there is not much there," Boucher said.

The U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan — and a highly unusual ground raid by American commandos last month — have angered civil and military leaders, who say they fan militancy.

In line with an apparent American policy of not confirming or denying the strikes, Boucher did not directly answer or ignored questions about the raids, but did say that some reports blaming the U.S. for attacks were wrong.

"Every time something explodes there, the U.S. is accused of doing it," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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