ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan said Wednesday that a peace deal with Islamic militants in a border province would not give safe harbor to Usama bin Laden if he is found in the country.
Pakistan's government and militants -- believed to support Al Qaeda and the Taliban militia -- signed a peace deal Tuesday with the government, aimed at ending years of violence in the rugged North Waziristan tribal area.
"Pakistan is committed to its policy on the war on terror, and Usama caught anywhere in Pakistan would be brought to justice," the country's top army spokesman, Gen. Shaukat Sultan, told The Associated Press.
Some observers had expressed concern the pact could provide a haven for militant leaders like bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in the rugged border zone, or that it proves the Pakistani military unable to crush an insurgency on its own soil.
However, Pakistan's Defense Minister's office said Wednesday that "Pakistan is on the hunt for Usama bin Laden and his associates."
"No amnesty has been granted to Usama bin Laden," it said. "He deserves no mercy."
The White House also defended the deal, saying Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government "has been very cooperative in helping track down members of Al Qaeda."
"There's been an implication that somehow this throws open the border area to Al Qaeda. That does not make sense for the government of Pakistan," White House spokesman Tony Snow said, responding to reporters' questions in Washington.
"We don't believe it is the case," he said. "And I think what's happened is, as quite often happens, people try to connect dots that aren't there."
Under the deal, the militants are to halt attacks on Pakistani forces in the semiautonomous region and stop crossing into nearby eastern Afghanistan to attack U.S. and Afghan forces, who are hunting Al Qaeda and Taliban forces there.
Pakistani troops are to stop their hugely unpopular military campaign in the restive Pakistani region, in which more than 350 soldiers have died, along with hundreds of militants and scores of civilians.