US defends annual report on global terrorism
WASHINGTON, May 1 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Monday defended the State Department's annual report on global terrorism, following sharp rebukes from Pakistan and Afghanistan for being singled out as terrorist hubs.
"We're seeing an eastward shift in terrorism's center of gravity from the Middle East to South Asia, particularly Afghanistan," Albright said.
Although neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan are on the department's list of states sponsoring terrorism -- Afghanistan because it is not recognized as a state and Pakistan because it is a friendly country -- the report singled them out as major sites of terrorist activity.
Afghanistan remains a "major terrorist threat" for still harboring Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, wanted in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in east Africa, and other suspected perpetrators of terrorist acts, according to the report.
Pakistan "continues to send mixed messages on terrorism," it added, noting some cooperation but also Islamabad's tolerance of "terrorists living and moving freely in its territory," specifically insurgents fighting to wrest control of Kashmir from neighboring India.
"They need to improve the record on that score," said US counter-terrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan.
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban Monday strongly dismissed the State Department report, while Pakistan stated the reports' allegations leveled against it were "unfounded" and reaffirmed its commitment to fight all forms of terrorism.
Asked on Monday why Pakistan and Afghanistan were not on the department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, Sheehan explained "Pakistan is a friendly country. They cooperate with us on numerous terrorist issues."
But, he acknowledged, the country had a mixed record.
"On the one hand, they'll cooperate with extradition, they provide good security for our embassies ... But on the other hand, they have relationships both with Kashmiri groups and with the Taliban in Afghanistan that are troubling."
As for Afghanistan, Sheehan stated while he did not believe the Taliban was hostile to the United States, "within the territory that they control, there are numerous terrorist organizations that directly threaten the United States (and) directly undermined the security of the region and other parts of the world."
"It is an enormous problem for the Taliban that they have to address," he said.
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