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Condoleezza Rice Arrives In Region, Asks India, Pakistan To Cooperate

December 3, 2008 11:55 PM EST | AP

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday the Pakistani government must mount a "robust response" to the terror bombings in India, which blames the carnage on terrorists operating from neighboring Pakistan.

After expressing U.S. condolences for the more than 170 deaths in India, Rice flew to Pakistan for meetings with civilian and military leaders. The U.S. wants broader sharing of intelligence and a commitment by Pakistan to root out terror groups that have found a comfortable perch in the Muslim country.

On the flight from New Delhi, Rice told reporters Pakistan has to determine how it is going to respond to last week's attacks in the Indian commercial capital of Mumbai.

"It just has to be a robust response and one that is effective" in bringing the terrorists to justice. "But I've also been emphasizing the importance of prevention here. The Pakistanis are sophisticated; they've been dealing with terrorism themselves for some time. So I'm going there to talk about a Pakistani response, not to carry messages."

Rice spent the day urging cooperation between the nuclear rivals, but the rhetoric in both countries only grew hotter.

"I informed Dr. Rice that there is no doubt that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai were perpetrated by individuals who came from Pakistan and whose controllers are in Pakistan," Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.

That left Rice to say Pakistan bears a "special responsibility" to help get to the bottom of the attacks while awkwardly declining to finger Pakistani militants outright.

Mukherjee said the view that the Mumbai attacks were based in Pakistan is broadly shared around the world, putting Rice on the spot. She said she would not prejudge an investigation into the attacks.

While Rice was assuring India of U.S. help in fighting terrorism, the top U.S. military officer was next door in Pakistan for closed-door talks.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was meeting civilian and military officials of both India and Pakistan during the trip, a senior defense official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

The official declined to give details and spoke privately because the meetings were still under way, saying only "It's all about a cooperative approach to regional security."

Pakistan's president, Asif Zardari, indicated on Wednesday he would not hand over 20 suspects wanted by India and said they would be tried in Pakistan if there was evidence of wrongdoing.

Zardari's new civilian administration would likely face a fierce backlash from Muslim groups and nationalists if it simply handed over the suspects to Pakistan's old foe India.

Thousands of Indians _ many calling for war with Pakistan _ gathered in Mumbai for a vigil to mark one week since the beginning of the deadly rampage.

More than 2,000 students marched through Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday, shouting anti-US and anti-Indian slogans.

The Bush administration has had varying success in reframing its relationship with both countries, which have fought three wars with one another.

In Pakistan's case, a new civilian government has replaced a military government that was a strong ally of President George W. Bush in fighting terrorism. In India, a troubled nuclear cooperation deal finally came through this fall and both nations have said it signaled a fresh start after years of lingering Cold war distance.

Filed by Hanna Ingber Win  |  Report Corrections