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Musharraf: Islamic Nations Support Anti-Terrorism Effort - 2001-09-19

Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, says any cooperation with the United States in its fight against terrorism is not a fight against Islam or the people of Afghanistan. The Pakistani leader says it is in his country's best interests to support the campaign against alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

President Musharraf says the United States has asked him to use his country's airspace and provide intelligence and logistical support to the effort against terrorism. He says in his discussions with U.S. officials, "nowhere have the words Islam or the Afghan nation been mentioned." He says even Islamic nations are behind the efforts to eliminate terrorism.

The General says he is not aware of any operational plans for a military attack against targets in Afghanistan, but he says he believes Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida organization he is allegedly controlling would be the primary targets. He says he believes the Taleban have now also become a target for not giving up the Saudi fugitive.

General Musharraf says going against the global effort to end terrorism would put in jeopardy Pakistan's national survival, its economy, its nuclear program and its dispute with India over Kashmir.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin told reporters a "technical level" American delegation will arrive to discuss details of the cooperation agreement with officials in Pakistan. She says Pakistani leaders have set no precondition for assisting the United States, if it decides to launch air strikes against terror bases in Afghanistan. However, she says cooperation has a price.

"President Musharraf has stood by us in our request for assistance during a period when the United States has asked for it. We are quite aware of the needs Pakistan has," says the ambassador. "You will find that we will stand by our friends who stand by us. We are currently looking at any number of ways to be responsive to Pakistan, as they have been responsive to us."

For his part, General Musharraf says Pakistan remains a strong supporter of the Taleban, but adds Pakistan's interests come first. He says the current crisis is the worst Pakistan has faced since 1971, when East Pakistan broke away to form Bangladesh. He also issued a stern warning to hardline Islamic groups in Pakistan who threatening violence over any support to the United States. He says such groups are in a minority and are trying to exploit the situation for political gain.