KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has backed off on his threat to sent troops into neighbouring Pakistan to battle the Taliban.

A spokesman for the Afghan leader said Tuesday that Karzai was only trying to make a "strong point" about policing the border when he made his comments on the weekend. Humayun Hamidzada adds, however, that Pakistan should not allow militants to use its territory for attacks against Afghanistan.

And he says Kabul continues to oppose plans by Pakistan's new government to enter into peace deals with militants in the largely lawless areas along the border.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani defended his government's approach of using "political dialogue" and economic development to fight militancy in border area.

Gilani also reiterated that his government will not allow foreign troops to hunt militants inside Pakistan.

Karzai on Sunday warned that Afghanistan has a right to defend itself by sending troops across the border into Pakistan to target militant leaders orchestrating attacks in his country.

"The president used that language to convoy a message; the president was making a strong point," Hamidzada said at a news conference in Kabul.

"What the president says is that as a sovereign nation Pakistan has a responsibility to make sure its territory isn't used against Afghanistan, and that's the message," Hamidzada said.

Karzai's comments drew strong condemnation from Pakistan, and the Pakistani Foreign Ministry protested directly to Afghanistan's ambassador in Islamabad on Monday.

Claims and counterclaims on the presence of militants in either country have often strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both close U.S. allies.

Afghan officials have repeatedly said that remnants of their country's Taliban militia are sheltering in Pakistan, an allegation Pakistan denies.

Pakistan says it has deployed about 100,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan, where the rugged terrain makes policing difficult.

The Pakistan government's plan to seek peace accords in the tribal areas has raised concern among American and Afghan officials who believe such deals allow militants to regroup and gain strength.

Hamidzada reiterated those fears.

"If they cut deals on the other side of the border and they (militants) announce that they will focus on Afghanistan, then I guess the doors are wide open for them to come and conduct terrorist activities in Afghanistan," he said.

But Gilani said his government was holding talks with "peaceful tribesmen" who have abandoned arms.

"We are not ready to talk to those persons who are giving a bad name to Pakistan and bad name to Islam," he said.

Latest From ...