Published on
The Independent/UK

Pakistan Blames US Raids For Hotel Bombing

Pakistan President pleads with Bush to reverse policy as BA cancels all flights to country

Omar Waraich in Islamabad, Anne Penketh and Andrew Buncombe

Soldiers in Rawalpindi prepare to repatriate the body of the Czech ambassador, Ivo Zdarek, who died in the bombing. (EPA)

The Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, will plead with President
George Bush today to change a policy which is being blamed for one of
his country's worst terrorist atrocities.

hope the US will change policy because this is what is needed," said
Pakistan's ambassador to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, after 53 people
were killed and more than 250 injured in the bombing of the Marriott
Hotel in Islamabad. He argued that the Bush administration's decision
to allow cross-border incursions from Afghanistan into Pakistan,
including by ground forces on at least one occasion, had been
counterproductive "because they are not killing high-value targets,
they are killing civilians".

Mr Zardari's talks with President
Bush in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, have
been scheduled amid heightened security fears in the wake of the

Yesterday BA cancelled all flights to Pakistan as a
precaution, although a spokesman said there was no direct threat
against the airline, which operates six flights each week. A number of
foreign embassies and businesses in the country are also said to be
re-examining the security situation.

In the north-western city of
Peshawar, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, Afghanistan's designated ambassador to
Pakistan, was kidnapped and his driver killed by unidentified gunmen.

on Sunday there was further tension on the border when Pakistani troops
reportedly fired shots to warn off two US helicopters that were
attempting to cross into Pakistan at Alwara Mandi in North Waziristan.

senior Pakistani official claimed that Pakistan's senior leaders were
to have attended a dinner at the Marriott Hotel but changed their venue
to the Prime Minister's house just hours before the massive bomb
devastated the building.

The Interior Ministry chief, Rehman
Malik, said the decision to move the location of the dinner for the
President and Prime Minister had been kept secret but did not provide
details of why the switch was made.

However, it later emerged that the invitations to the Prime Minister's residence were sent out 10 days ago.

dinner was never going to be at the Marriott," said Talat Hussain, a
political analyst and director of current affairs at Aaj TV. "We were
all issued invitations well in advance that it was to take place at the
Prime Minister's house. And by claiming that they had managed to move
the political leadership to another location, it asks the question, if
there is a security threat, is it only for VIPs? Are the rest of us
children of a lesser god?"


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Mr Malik could not be reached for further clarification last night.

carried out Saturday night's attack remains unclear. Mr Malik had
previously said the hotel was attacked by Taliban or al-Qa'ida
militants simply because it was a Western target.

But his
remarks raise the question as to why - if the government had received
intelligence that the Marriott might be attacked - was security at the
hotel not immediately increased.

The attack on the hotel and the
shockwaves it has sent through Pakistan are just the latest challenges
confronting the country's civilian leadership and its recently elected
president, Mr Zardari. Under pressure from the US, Mr Zardari, the
widower of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to
continue the battle against Islamic militants operating in the
country's tribal areas despite growing resentment inside Pakistan about
interference from Washington.

Mr Hassan said that the Pakistan
President had gained the support of Gordon Brown in opposing the US
raids on Pakistani territory, during talks in London last week.

Zardari is to chair the first meeting of the Friends of Pakistan -
grouping the US, Britain and the other G8 countries as well as the
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and China - in New York on Friday.
Pakistan is looking for short-term help for economic measures to
stimulate employment, and longer-term assistance for social development
in deprived areas.


The number of people killed in suicide bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.


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