LONDON – The United States has told Pakistan it expects complete cooperation in investigations into the terrorist rampage in nuclear rival India, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday, saying the civilized world must unite against this menace.
Appearing at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary David Mililand, Rice said the perpetrators of attacks that have taken the lives of at least 170 in Mumbai, India, "must be brought to justice." She also said that Pakistan's response to the attacks will be a test of the will of the new civilian government.
"What we are emphasizing to the Pakistani government is the need to follow the evidence wherever it leads," Rice said. "I don't want to jump to any conclusions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation and that's what we expect."
At President George W. Bush's direction, Rice is cutting short a European trip to visit India later this week. Six Americans were among those killed in attacks spanning three days in the Indian commercial capital Mumbai.
Rice said that "ultimately, the terrorists have to be stopped because they will keep trying to bring down" civilized nations and institutions.
At another point in the news conference, she made clear that the United States is working directly with the top leaders of Pakistan.
" The president of Pakistan is the elected Pakistani president and he therefore has the legitimacy that comes with election," she said. "The military now serves in a civilian government. We have obviously good contacts with all Pakistani officials ... but the government of Pakistan has a legitimate and elected president."
Indian leaders have pointed fingers at "elements in Pakistan" although it is not yet clear where the well-planned operation originated.
Attackers chose sites representing the city's wealth and tourism, and reportedly sought out Westerners as victims. Rice will see Indian leaders in New Delhi. She does not plan to go to Mumbai.
A previously unknown Muslim group called Deccan Mujahideen — a name suggesting origins inside India — has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But a top Indian police officer said Sunday he believed the attackers were from Lashkar-e-Taiba, long seen as a creation of the Pakistani intelligence service to help fight India in the disputed Kashmir region. The group was banned in Pakistan in 2002 under pressure from the U.S., a year after Washington and Britain listed it a terrorist organization.
Bush was in the Situation Room Monday morning, getting another update on the terrorist attacks.
Pressed about what the White House knows of the terrorists' motives, press secretary Dana Perino said: "The intelligence community is still assessing all aspects of the attack, the motivation, the plotting and planning and the operational details of it."
Asked if she was convinced that there was no Pakistani government role in the attacks, "I'm not going to comment on any possible involvement. ... I've heard nothing that says the Pakistani government was involved."
Later, Perino added the White House has "no reason" not to trust the Pakistanis. Perino noted that Pakistan, too, has been the victim of horrific terrorist attacks.
As for Americans' safety, Perino said "We do believe that all the American citizens are accounted for at this point."
Indian leaders have blamed unspecified "elements in Pakistan" for the 60-hour siege during which suspected Muslim militants hit 10 sites across Mumbai, but have not said whether they believe the terrorists had the backing of any state agencies. Pakistan denied it was involved and demanded evidence.
India has repeatedly accused Pakistan of complicity in terrorist attacks on its soil, many of which it traces to militant groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. The U.S. has tried to persuade Pakistan to shift its security focus from India, with which it has fought three wars, to Islamic militants along the Afghan border.
The Mumbai assaults raised fears among U.S officials of renewed violence between India and Pakistan. Both nations possess nuclear arms.
Rice said Pakistan's U.S-backed civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, has pledged to improve relations.
Zardari replaced President Pervez Musharraf earlier this year and has established polite but distanced relations with Washington. Musharraf was a military man and a Bush administration ally against terrorism, but that closeness cost him support at home.