ISLAMABAD, Dec 6: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said Pakistan will thwart any attempt by terrorists to use its territory for their “nefarious designs”.

“Pakistan would not allow its territory for any terrorist activity,” the prime minister told a US Senate delegation, which called on him at the Prime Minister’s House here on Saturday.

The delegation comprised senators John McCain, the presidential candidate in last month’s elections, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay O. Graham — members of the powerful Senate Committee on Armed Services.

Mr Gilani rejected an impression that the action against terrorists was being taken under US duress and told the senators that terrorism would be rooted out not because “allies and friends” wanted Pakistan to do so, but because it posed the “foremost threat to the country’s security, integrity, economy and the very fabric of society”.

He asked the US delegation to take cognizance of the underlying causes begetting terrorism. He sought US assistance in upgrading Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies.

About Pakistan’s ties with India, especially in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Mr Gilani said his country remained committed to cordial relations with its neighbour.

He specifically referred to the “remarkable patience shown by the country’s political leadership” to defuse the situation rather than indulging in jingoistic rhetoric in the face of “all sorts of provocations”.Mr Gilani said he had taken all political forces on board on the issue and that the entire nation stood united against this challenge.

The delegation’s head, Senator McCain, assured Prime Minister Gilani that the US wanted a “committed and solid strategic relationship with Pakistan on a long-term basis”.

A source in the US embassy said Mr McCain, who came here after visiting India, restated the stance taken by Secretary of State Dr Rice during her visit to the region, emphasising on Islamabad to cooperate with India in the Mumbai probe.

On the repeated US drone attacks in tribal areas, the senator reiterated his opposition to violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and hoped that the new US administration would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Senator McCain further said there was a bipartisan support for Biden-Lugar Bill in the new US Congress, adding that he would work for its expeditious passage for providing the urgently-required assistance to Pakistan.

The senator assured Mr Gilani of his delegation’s support for capacity building of Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies.

AP adds: Pakistan understands it must take quick action against any terrorists connected to the Mumbai attacks that are living in the country, Senator McCain said after meetings with the PM and the army chief .

Asked about the possibility that India might take military action if Pakistan did not react to its allegations, he said he believed Islamabad would cooperate with India and take timely “specific acts to avert any further deepening of this crisis”.

“From our meetings we have had today we are encouraged that the government of Pakistan will show that cooperation in words and deed,” he said.

Senator Joe Lieberman said he was encouraged that Pakistan “will not allow the terrorists to divide this country from either its allies in Washington or its neighbors in New Delhi”.

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