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Blair Discusses Evidence with Musharraf - 2001-10-05

Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held what they described as "detailed and worthwhile discussions," late Friday in Islamabad on a future course of action in Afghanistan.

Calling the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States a "crime against humanity," British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he and General Musharraf agree that any military action taken against Afghanistan's Taleban authorities for refusing to surrender Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaida organization be "targeted and not directed against the Afghan people."

The British prime minister says he and General Musharraf also agree that, if the Taleban lose power in Afghanistan, any future government should be broad based. "We have agreed that if the current Taleban regime fails to yield up bin Laden, and it falls, then its successor be broadbased, with every key ethnic group represented, including Pashtuns," said Mr. Blair, "and that Pakistan has a valid interest and close involvement with how such a successor regime might be established." Mr. Blair called evidence against Mr. Bin Laden, "overwhelming and compelling."

General Musharraf says Pakistan is satisfied with evidence provided by the United States that Osama bin Laden and his supporters were behind the terrorist attacks. "On the issue of evidence, I personally, also, and my government feels that there is evidence, which is leading to an association between this terrorist act and Osama bin Laden," he said. "However, we are not here standing in judgment on the details of this evidence."

Mr. Musharraf also expressed gratitude to Mr. Blair for what he calls his understanding of the problems Pakistan is facing for supporting the international coalition now confronting the Taleban. Pakistan is the first Islamic nation to support the U-S evidence tying the bin Laden organization to last month's terrorist attacks in the United States, as well as earlier attacks in other parts of the world.

Mr. Blair called Islamabad's support of that effort "vital," considering Pakistan's proximity to Afghanistan, and said part of his mission was to ensure that Pakistan be recognized for that. Mr. Blair also announced a resumption of military cooperation between Pakistan and Britain, which was suspended following the 1999 coup that brought General Musharraf to power.