The western nations have “no alternative” but to deal with Pakistani government in order to continue the battle against Islamic terrorism, warned the chief of NATO.

As the war of words and accusations between Washington and Islamabad intensify in the wake of revelations that al Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden lived undisturbed in a Pakistani compound for at least five years, NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen beseeched western governments to continue working with Pakistan.

Speaking to the World Affairs Council in Atlanta, Ga., Rasmussen praised efforts by Pakistani authorities to fight militants along the lawless Afghan border.

But I think more could be done, he said.

We should support those forces in Pakistan that realize that the real threat against the Pakistani society comes from terrorism and extremism.”

Rasmussen did concede, however, that bin Laden’s lengthy residence in Pakistan raised a lot of questions that have to be answered. But he also expressed confidence that Pakistan’s government will competently investigate what caused such a grievous intelligence breach.

[The] bottom line is that we need strong co-operation with Pakistan. If we are to assure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and beyond, then we need positive engagement with Pakistan, Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen is a former Prime Minister of Denmark

Earlier today, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani adamantly denied allegations that Pakistani officials had been harboring bin Laden for years, while at the same time defending the nation’s intelligence service of incompetence.

Opposition parties in Pakistan are demanding the resignation of Gilani and the President Asif Ali Zardari over their poor handling of the bin Laden affair.