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US officials ratchet up pressure on Pakistan over Taliban militants

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Less than a week after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton elevated the rhetoric by telling Congress that the government was "abdicating" before Taliban forces taking control of new pockets of the country, Pakistan has stepped up its military offensive against the Taliban in areas near the border with Afghanistan.

On Sunday, the government sent troops and helicopter gunships to battle Taliban militants in the Swat Valley near the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistani officials insist the government is acting in its own interest and not at the behest of any foreign government.

But some comments belie a sensitivity to intensifying American pressures to take on the advancing Taliban.

"Please do not panic," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Monday in response to Secretary Clinton's testimony before a House committee. "We will not surrender, we will not capitulate, and we will not abdicate."

Heightened US concern about Pakistan has surfaced not only in Clinton's comments to Congress but also in a White House meeting President Obama held last Thursday with her and with his special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke.

That meeting and subsequent bilateral contacts are seen to be setting the tone for a three-way White House summit Obama will hold next week with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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