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NATO commander says no long-term stay in Pakistan

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, Nov 24, IRNA
Commander of NATO's relief team in Pakistan Andrew Walton Thursday dispelled the impression that NATO troops were setting up permanent bases in the region.

"We have no long-term intentions. We are not setting up long-term bases," he told a news conference in Islamabad.

Pakistan religious and opposition political parties have expressed concern over the deployment of NATO forces in Pakistan, saying that NATO forces have always sought permanent basis wherever they have been deployed.

Walton said that NATO troops are not threatened by Islamic relief groups, operating the quake zone some of which are believed to be linked with banned extremist organizations.

"We are aware of each other. There is no direct interaction between us. I do not feel, at all threatened, by anyone else's presence," he said.

About the earthquake relief operation, the NATO Commander warned that it is a race against time to provide food and medicines to people in high mountain villages before winter snow sets in and cut off communication links.

"This is a race in all senses of the word," Walton told a news conference about NATO's relief efforts for victims of the October 8 quake.

He said that there are an estimated 35,000 people who are at high altitudes and at the risk of extreme cold conditions in Bagh, one of the worst hit districts in Pakistani Kashmir where NATO troops are operating.

NATO troops have provided shelter to some 29,000 of them and efforts are going on to get shelters for the remaining 6,000 people, Walton said.

He lauded Pakistan army, local people in Bagh where the NATO has been engaged in relief activities over the past one month.


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