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Pakistan defends peace deal

WASHINGTON -- Pakistan's foreign minister yesterday strongly defended a truce with militants along his country's border with Afghanistan, saying ``not just brawn but brains" are needed in the fight against terrorists.

Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's deal with militants in an area where Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden could be hiding has drawn criticism that Islamic extremists will have a haven.

``I can understand why people are confused, but there's a time when not just brawn but brains are also needed," Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said. ``Sometimes what happens is that when you have acts of violence you end up alienating the local population."

Kasuri took on those who have accused Pakistan of not doing enough in the hunt for bin Laden and other terrorist leaders, saying ``Pakistan's commitment to the war against extremism and terrorism is very much in place."

``President Musharraf is a strong leader, and I think the time has come where President Musharraf's leadership on this issue should not be questioned," the minister told CNN's ``Late Edition."

As part of the truce, militants have agreed to stop attacking Afghan and US-led coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan. Kasuri said ``there's no question of withdrawing the army" from the semiautonomous tribal regions along the Afghan border.

Musharraf sent the Army into the area in December 2001, an attempt to pursue Al Qaeda militants fleeing Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban government.

Heavy fighting in Pakistan, however, killed hundreds of militants, soldiers and civilians. It also caused deep resentment among local Pashtun tribesmen.

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said last week that the United States thinks ``the overall effort is a good one."

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