LAHORE, July 3: The Taliban, warlords and drug lords are out to disrupt electoral process in Afghanistan and shift the blame on Pakistan, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri said on Sunday, urging foreign troops present in the war-ravaged country to rein in such elements.

Answering a question at a news conference at the State Guest House, he said Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan and it was for that reason that it had deployed some 70,000 troops on its western borders to ensure tranquillity.

“If still some elements are creating problems for the Afghan government, it is for the foreign troops to check them,” the foreign minister added.

“A strong and stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. We hope the situation there will improve after the elections.”

He said Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan had improved over the past couple of years and when President Musharraf had visited Kabul to congratulate President Hamid Karzai on his victory in the elections, he was all praise for Pakistan.

Mr Kasuri said now that elections were due in Afghanistan, the Taliban, warlords and drug lords wanted to create problems for the Afghan government. Pakistan, he added, had no interest in supporting any activity which could make the holding of the elections difficult.

About relations with Iran after the election of its new president, he said Islamabad would have friendly relations with every government in Tehran.

As for the standoff between Iran and the US on Iranian nuclear programme, Mr Kasuri said Pakistan supported diplomatic efforts being made by the UK, Germany and France to resolve the crisis.

Islamabad, the foreign minister said, wanted that rights and obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty must be respected.

Answering a question, he said ties with India were improving with the time and both the countries were holding composite dialogue. A unilateral flexibility, he added, could not be expected from Pakistan.

On the 10-year defence pact between India and the United States, he said Pakistan would see its ‘fine print’ and then take necessary measures to maintain a minimum credible deterrence. He indicated that the ‘price’ of deterrence would go up in the changed situation.

He said Pakistan had a capable army and a very strong defence industry and the government would do whatever it took to maintain a balance of conventional weapons.

Mr Kasuri said a balance of such weaponry was the only way to prevent a war between the two nuclear powers.

About the OIC decision to give observer status to Russia, he said Russia had helped Pakistan become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

He told a questioner that the San’a Declaration adopted by the OIC foreign ministers’ meeting was ‘closest’ to what Pakistan had pleaded.

He underlined the need for United Nations reforms in a manner that ensured justice to poor nations.

He said if religion was made the basis for representation in the UN Security Council, followers of all faiths would begin calling for their share, which would undermine the principle of representation of regions.

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