Pakistan confused at inclusion in Saudi-led anti-terrorism coalition


Pakistani officials were Wednesday formulating a response over the country's inclusion in a 34-nation list announced by Saudi Arabia which largely comprises Muslim-majority states. "Our response to this (Saudi announcement) is being formulated and it will be issued soon. That is the only think which I can say at this point," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah told journalists.

He refused to say when Pakistan will issue a formal statement. Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it had established a coalition of Muslim nations to support military operations in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. Local media reported that officials were confused about how to respond as Islamabad has close ties to Riyadh, but didn't apparently consult Pakistan before making the announcement.

"We came to know about it through news reports," an unnamed senior Foreign Office source was quoted as saying by Pakistan's Tribune newspaper. "We have asked our ambassador in Saudi Arabia to get details." Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said he was surprised at the news, and confirmed that the ambassador was seeking clarification, Dawn newspaper reported. Khalilullah distanced himself from Dawn's story saying the "foreign secretary was misquoted by media on this issue."

The aim of the Saudi-led coalition was to "fight every terrorist organisation, not only Islamic State," Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman said. The list of coalition countries included Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia, but not Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. The Dawn report noted that Riyadh in an earlier incident had announced Pakistan was an ally in strikes against rebels in neighbouring Yemen, while Islamabad had not yet agreed and in fact later declined to participate in the operations.

Pakistan's official policy is to deploy troops abroad only as part of UN peacekeeping missions, and the country has refused two earlier requests to joint operations against Islamic State militants, the report said. Indonesia also said Wednesday it was surprised by the Saudi announcement, which did not list it as a member but said the coalition enjoyed Jakarta's support.

"They said we supported it. What support?" Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was quoted as saying by the Kompas daily. She confirmed her Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir had spoken to her about the initiative, but had not given her any details.    (dpa)

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