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Pakistan's Foreign Minister Says 'Blame Game Is Counterproductive'

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In an interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, Pakistan's foreign minister said her country and the United States "need each other" and "are fighting against the same people" but "Pakistan's dignity must not be compromised."

Hina Rabbani Khar spoke at a time of increased tension between the two countries and as the United States ratcheted up its rhetoric against Pakistan. Last week, Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put Pakistan on the defensive when he told Congress that Pakistan was "actively and passively" supporting militant groups that were responsible for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, earlier this month.

Steve asked Khar why Pakistan had reacted so strongly to Mullen's comments. Khar said 30,000 Pakistanis have died as a result of the war on terror.

"Imagine, how the U.S. would react? We have 6,000-some soldiers who have died in the battle," she said. "Imagine how the U.S. would react if such a number had lost their lives and then comments would come from other countries, which said that you are the problem, you are part of the problem."

But very much in the spirit of the speech she gave in the United Nations on Tuesday, Khar emphasized unity in the fight against terrorism.

"Maturity demands, the complexity of the situation demands that we are able to look at this as a common problem. I'm am convinced that is a common problem. I'm just not so convinced that your people are convinced we are in it together," she told Steve.

While she said she had "strong reservations" about Mullen's comments, she said that the "intelligence world is a complex world." She also seem to pin Mullen's words on politics.

"We must be very careful ... when we are conducting our domestic policies, when we are trying to reach out to our people," she said. "I would be the most popular person in Pakistan if I were to reach out to my people by saying negative things about the U.S. But it's not in my national interest and I'm convinced of that."

Today, The New York Times reported that in 2007 Pakistani intelligence agents and military officers were part of a group that opened fire on American Military officers. The paper reports that a Pakistani soldier "opened fire with an automatic rifle, pumping multiple rounds from just 5 or 10 yards away into an American officer, Maj. Larry J. Bauguess Jr., killing him almost instantly."

Khar first questioned the report's authenticity and asked, "Why is this coming out now?"

"Should we take it to mean that there is some concerted campaign against Pakistan? I hope not," she said.

Steve asked her what she would tell Americans who open the paper to see Bauguess' face and read about the Pakistani tie to his death.

"And what would you say to the Pakistanis who would see a photograph of thousands of dead bodies that are there in Pakistan... who see young school-going children between the ages of seven and 12 who are attacked, fired by the Talibans and who read in The New York Times that they are part of the problem?" Khar asked.

Khar said her country is trying "not to be reactionary" in this situation. She emphasized on different occasions that the United States and Pakistan are on the same side.

"This incident [the Mullen comments] has only strengthened one hand," she said. "That of the militants. If we are able to understand that, realize that I'm quite sure that we would understand that there are no unilateral solutions."

"The blame game," she said, "is counterproductive."

Much more of Steve and Khar's conversation on Wednesday's Morning Edition. Tune into your local NPR member station to listen. We'll also post the as-aired version of the interview later in the day Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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