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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pakistan to Canada: Stop griping about troop deaths

OTTAWA, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf bluntly told Canadians on Tuesday to stop complaining about the number of soldiers they were losing in Afghanistan, saying Canada's death toll was far less than Pakistan's.

Canada has 2,300 troops based in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. In the last three months, 20 soldiers have been killed in clashes with Taliban militants, prompting calls for the mission to be brought back home.

Musharraf told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that if Canada was worried about soldier fatalities, it should not be in the war-torn country.

"When you get involved in places like Iraq or Lebanon or Afghanistan, yes indeed you have to suffer casualties, and the nation must be prepared to suffer casualties. So if you're not prepared to suffer casualties as an army, then don't participate in any operation," he said in an interview.

Since Canada joined the U.S.-led war on terror in late 2001, about 35 of its soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Musharraf, whose country neighbors Pakistan, dismissed this as a mere handful.

"We have suffered 500 casualties. The Canadians have suffered four or five. What are you talking about? Who are you talking to? Who are you talking to? You are talking to the president of a country that has suffered 500 casualties," he said.

"You have suffered two dead and there is crying and shouting all around the place that there are coffins. Well, we've had 500 coffins."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokeswoman said she was unaware of the comments.

Musharraf also dismissed a suggestion by Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor that Canadian troops might be based in Pakistan to help the fight against militants.

"I can assure you our troops are more effective and we have more experience of war. This (suggestion) shows a lack of trust in Pakistan," he said.
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