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Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Pakistan gives backing to antiterrorism effort

Country seen as launch pad for attack on bin Laden

September 16, 2001

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— Pakistan promised full support Saturday to any international reply to the terrorist attacks in the United States effectively pledging its soil and airspace to an assault on neighboring Afghanistan.

At Camp David, Md., Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed gratitude for Pakistan's willingness to cooperate in any military action the United States may take in the region. Osama bin Laden, identified as a suspect in Tuesday's airborne attacks on New York and Washington, has operated in Afghanistan.

"I especially want to thank the president and the people of Pakistan for the support that they have offered and their willingness to assist us in whatever might be required in that part of the world, as we determine who these perpetrators are," Powell said Saturday.

Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar chose his words carefully while announcing the decision at a news conference in the Pakistani capital, aware of hard-line Islamic groups at home who are staunchly anti-American and strongly behind Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia.

He emphasized the international nature of any retaliatory strike and refused to give specifics of what its support might entail.

"We have reached a consensus on the policy of giving full support to the world community in combating international terrorism," Sattar told reporters after a four-hour meeting of the Cabinet and the more powerful National Security Council, headed by the president and army chief Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani diplomatic and military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Pakistan had agreed to the full list of U.S. demands for a possible attack on Afghanistan, including a multinational force to be based within its borders. They also Pakistan has sought assurances from the United States that any ground force would be multinational.

Pakistan also agreed to close its border with Afghanistan a measure taken by Iran on Saturday as well as allowing its airspace to be used for possible strikes and cooperating in intelligence gathering.

Afghanistan, which shares a 1,560-mile border with Pakistan, is believed to be harboring bin Laden.

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