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Turkish President Begins Visit to Pakistan - 2001-10-25


Turkey's president has begun a two day visit to Pakistan to express his country's appreciation for Islamabad's support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Speaking to reporters prior to his departure, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer dwelt at length on what he termed the rare friendship and solidarity enjoyed by the two Muslim nations.

Mr. Sezer said recent developments in Afghanistan, including the escalating humanitarian crisis there, would be the main focus of discussions with his Pakistani counterpart, General Pervez Musharraf.

The Turkish president's visit comes ahead of a planned meeting in Turkey of Afghan opposition groups. They will seek to draw up the framework of an interim government to replace the ruling Taleban.

Representatives of former Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah and members of the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance are expected to attend that meeting.

Analysts say both Pakistan and Turkey want a say in shaping Afghanistan's future, and that part of Mr. Sezer's mission is to ensure that they play complimentary, rather than competing, roles.

Turkey, the only predominantly Muslim country in the NATO military alliance, has offered to contribute to an international peace-keeping force that would likely be deployed in Afghanistan, after the U.S.-led military operations against Taleban forces and Osama bin Laden's alleged terrorist network are completed. Turkey has opened its skies and bases to U.S. military aircraft and transport planes taking part in the campaign in Afghanistan. U.S. and British warplanes have used the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War to patrol the skies over Iraq.

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