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Musharraf 'Reasonably Sure' Kidnapped American Still Alive - 2002-02-13


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he is "reasonably sure" that kidnapped American reporter Daniel Pearl is still alive. The Pakistani leader met with President Bush at the White House Wednesday where they discussed efforts to gain Mr. Pearl's release.

President Musharraf says Pakistani security forces are doing everything they can to find the Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted three weeks ago.

"I am reasonably sure he is alive, and I really very much hope, we all hope that he is alive," he said. "About getting him released, well let me say we are as close as possible to getting him released."

Pakistani police Tuesday arrested the man who they say organized the kidnapping. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh has reportedly told them told that Mr. Pearl is alive and is still in the city of Karachi where he was abducted January 23rd while working on a story about Islamic extremism.

His kidnappers demanded the release of Pakistanis captured during the fight against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan and warned U.S. reporters to leave Pakistan because they said there are spies pretending to be journalists.

President Musharraf says he expected a certain degree of "fall out" from efforts to "crush extremism and religious intolerance" in Pakistan. He says he is hopeful that the combined efforts of U.S. and Pakistani authorities will win Mr. Pearl's release.

President Bush thanked the Pakistani leader for his help, calling Mr. Musharraf a leader of courage and vision who has broadened his commitment to fighting terrorism wherever it exists, including inside Pakistan. "Terrorists operating in Pakistan recently kidnapped American reporter Daniel Pearl," he said. "We spent time today in the Oval Office talking about our mutual desire to see that Mr. Pearl is returned home safely. I want to thank the President for his assistance and work in securing Mr. Pearl's release."

The two leaders also discussed tensions along Pakistan's border with India, the need to help rebuild Afghanistan and the future of U.S. - Pakistani military cooperation.

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