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Pakistan's prime minister rejects backlash on Bin Laden

Gilani denies accusations of collusion or incompetence. Pakistani news media seek to expose the CIA station chief in Islamabad.

May 10, 2011|By Paul Richter and Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

He also sought to assure Pakistanis that the government would not tolerate a similar raid in the future.

"Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force," Gilani said. "No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland."

Gilani characterized Bin Laden's years of sanctuary in Pakistan as "an intelligence failure," but he added that blame should be shared by the CIA and intelligence agencies around the world. He said Pakistan's spy agency had captured at least 40 key Al Qaeda operatives, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom U.S. officials regard as the principal architect of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd," Gilani said. "We will not allow our detractors to succeed in offloading their own shortcomings … in a blame game that stigmatizes Pakistan."

The aggressive tone of Gilani's speech suggested growing concern about the toll the Bin Laden affair has taken on the country's ruling Pakistan People's Party, led by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Opposition parties have capitalized on the public's discontent over the raid. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leader of the main opposition party, PML-N, said Monday that the mission was "a blow to Pakistani sovereignty and self-respect."

Last week, former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a member of Zardari's party who lost his Cabinet post this year, called on both Zardari and Gilani to resign.

Daniel Markey, a South Asia specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official, said Gilani's speech had a number of goals, including defending the army so it wouldn't turn on the ruling party and spreading some of the blame to the U.S.

Given the frustration in Congress and among ordinary Americans, he said, "even if we see this speech as posturing, it could dump more fuel on the fire. Crises escalate step by step at first, unless both sides choose to find a way out. I don't see that yet."

Richter reported from Washington and Rodriguez from Islamabad. Times staff writer Ken Dilanian in Washington contributed to this report.

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