PARIS (Reuters) – Pakistan’s prime minister defended his country’s failure to spot that Osama bin Laden had been hiding out in a luxury compound near Islamabad, saying that fighting terrorism was the whole world’s responsibility.
Pakistan is under pressure from the West to explain how bin Laden, who was killed this week in a U.S. raid on his hideout, could have lived for several years in a military garrison town near the Pakistani capital without local intelligence finding out.
“There is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone,” Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told reporters in Paris on Wednesday where he was due to meet French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
“Certainly we have intelligence sharing with the rest of the world, including the United States, so if somebody points out that there are … lapses from the Pakistan side, that means there are lapses from the whole world,” he said.
Gilani said Pakistan had paid a heavy price for its involvement in the U.S.-led “war on terrorism,” with more than 30,000 Pakistanis killed since the fighting in Afghanistan began.
Bin Laden, architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, was killed by U.S. commandoes on Monday in a raid on his fortified compound in Abbottabad, about 65 km (40 miles) north of Islamabad.
Gilani, speaking to representatives of French employers’ group Medef, sought to convince business leaders considering investment in Pakistan that the country was plagued by what he called “exaggerated” and “misleading” perceptions.
“Today, through your forum, I want to convince the world that instead of giving negative messages for Pakistan, rather we should send positive messages to Pakistan,” Gilani said.
“We should have positive messages because no one, no single nation, alone can fight terrorism. Pakistan is a part of the solution and not a part of the problem,” he said.
Gilani said he had delivered the same message to British Prime Minister David Cameron and to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who he met in Paris on Tuesday.
Juppe told a news conference on Tuesday it was hard to imagine how bin Laden could have gone unnoticed living in a large compound in a relatively small city in Pakistan.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also defended his government on Wednesday, calling suggestions that Pakistan sheltered bin Laden “baseless speculation … (that) doesn’t reflect fact.”
Nuclear-armed Pakistan is the recipient of billions of dollars of aid every year, which U.S. lawmakers have begun to call into question. Washington and Islamabad have clashed in the past over Pakistan’s commitment to the fight against Islamic militancy.
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