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Pakistan will defend Saudi Arabia but not escalate conflict: Pak defence minister
Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif.

Pakistan will defend Saudi Arabia but not escalate conflict: Pak defence minister

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is ready to defend Saudi Arabia s “territorial integrity” but not to escalate any conflict, the defence minister said Friday, after Riyadh asked Islamabad to join the coalition of countries battling Yemen rebels.

Khawaja Asif told parliament Pakistan was not prepared to take part in any conflict that would divide the Muslim world on sectarian lines.

“We don’t want to be part of any proliferation, we will try to contain it,” he said.

The announcement appears to rule out any immediate Pakistani participation in the fighting, which has so far been confined to Yemen itself.

Saudi Arabia has begun air strikes in Yemen to defend the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi from advancing Shiite Huthi rebels.

Its ambassador in Washington said Thursday it had assembled a coalition of 10 countries, including Pakistan and five Gulf monarchies, formed to protect the Yemeni government.

But Pakistan, a longstanding ally of Riyadh, says it has not yet decided whether to join the operation, which has seen Yemeni capital Sanaa rocked by powerful explosions.

Asif said Pakistan’s “only pledge is for the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.

“God forbid, if there is any threat to the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan will defend it at any cost,” he told lawmakers.

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