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Taliban now threatening to take other areas: Nawaz

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LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League (N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif has expressed concern about a controversial peace deal with Islamist militants, adding that they are now threatening to take other areas into their control. In an interview with American newspaper at his Lahore residence Nawaz said that he wants to work with the ruling coalition.

The PML-N Quaid said: he opposes attacks by airborne U.S. drones on militant hide-outs as “counterproductive” and wants to see dialogue with more moderate Islamist groups. Sharif downplayed fears that the nuclear-armed country could be taken over by Taliban militants, who are gaining strength both in Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan, where they are battling U.S. and NATO troops.

He said the insurgency in Swat and border areas could be defused in just two years if sufficient economic development took place. Any deal with militants should include commitments that “democracy will not be allowed to deteriorate and the writ of the government will be honored,” Sharif said, adding that women’s schools and universities must be allowed to stay open.

Sharif also insisted that he wants to work with the ruling coalition, led by the president’s Pakistan Peoples Party. He still wants Zardari to give up some of his presidential powers but says the dispute should be resolved in Parliament, not on the streets.

“This country cannot afford any confrontation,” Sharif said. “We’re not going to put our country in jeopardy (because of desire for) power. Grabbing power at any cost is not our motto. Our motto is to get the country back on the rails of democracy, strengthen institutions like the judiciary and media and take necessary steps to prevent anybody from abrogating or suspending the constitution.”

He said, politicians must set aside their quarrels and work together to find solutions to the Taliban insurgency and Pakistan’s other pressing needs. “This country is facing huge, huge problems — internal, external,” he said. “It’s very important that democracy deliver.”

Nawaz Sharif said he had a good relationship with President Clinton — and is a fan of President Obama. “I have never met Obama, but I have a good impression about him,” he said. “I think he’s a good guy.”-SANA

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