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Senator says "all options on table" on Pakistan

Senator Lindsey Graham speaks to the media before voting on a bill allowing a rise in the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill
Senator Lindsey Graham speaks to the media before voting on a bill allowing a rise in the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will have to consider all options "including defending our troops" in confronting Pakistani support for militant networks fighting U.S. soldiers in the region, a senator said on Sunday.

"We need to put Pakistan on notice," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican member of the Armed Services Committee said on "Fox News Sunday."

U.S. military leaders said last week the Pakistani army's powerful ISI spy agency supported the Haqqani militant group that Washington blames for an attack on its embassy and other targets in Kabul, Afghanistan. Pakistan denied the allegations.

Graham said Pakistan has to choose between helping the Haqqani network and helping the United States fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan and border regions of Pakistan.

"The idea of Pakistan's intelligence agencies supporting terrorism as a national strategy needs to come to an end," Graham said.

"It destabilizes Afghanistan. They're killing American soldiers. If they continue to embrace terrorism as part of their national strategy we're going to have to put all options on the table, including defending our troops."

Graham said Washington should reconsider assistance to Pakistan and noted last week's approval by a Senate committee of $1 billion to Pakistan for counterterrorism operations. The panel made that and any economic aid conditional on Islamabad cooperating with Washington against militant groups, including the Haqqanis.

The senator did not elaborate on what U.S. military action he would advocate if the situation did not change.

"I am saying that the sovereign nation of Pakistan is engaging in hostile acts against the United States and our ally Afghanistan," he said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)