WASHINGTON, April 7: The US State Department has distanced itself from the statements of its envoy in Afghanistan, saying that so far there were no plans for sending troops into Pakistan to look for Al Qaeda suspects.

The official US statement followed a strong protest by Pakistan, both in Islamabad and in Washington where Pakistani diplomats visited several branches of the government to register their protest against the envoy's suggestion.

Washington's ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad suggested on Monday that the United States should send troops into Pakistan's tribal areas to destroy terrorist sanctuaries if Pakistan failed to do the job. Pakistan reacted angrily against the suggestion and a foreign office spokesman in Islamabad called this was "uncalled for and unwarranted."

Pakistan's protest reflected at a State Department briefing on Tuesday evening as well. Asked to comment on Khalilzad's statement, the department's deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said: "I think that's an eventuality that fortunately, we don't have to deal with at this point."

At a news conference in Washington earlier on Tuesday, Mr Khalilzad also reversed his position and said he would rather have Pakistan deal with the Al Qaeda fugitives hiding in its territory.

Mr Ereli said the United States and Pakistan had had a good dialogue on the subject of moving against terrorist elements operating on their territory and "we've seen during the last several weeks, even months, concerted and courageous actions by Pakistani forces against those elements."

"These actions have involved the loss of considerable Pakistani life, for which the Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed appreciation in his recent trip to Pakistan," said the spokesman.

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