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Pakistani President Says Conflict With Iraq Will Not Affect War on Terrorism - 2002-09-14

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said a potential military confrontation in Iraq will not affect the campaign against al-Qaida terrorists. But he predicts such a conflict could have negative repercussions for South Asia.

President Musharraf said Pakistan would back a decision to take action against Iraq, if it is made in the form of a United Nations Security Council resolution. The Pakistani leader's comment implies that Pakistan, an important U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, is not committed to support any unilateral U.S. action against Iraq.

Mr. Musharraf said the conflict with Iraq should not overshadow the pursuit of al-Qaida terrorists. "One remains extremely conscious that whatever happens in Iraq should not have any affect [on] the committment in the region in Afghanistan and against al-Qaida. [But] I think it will produce ripples in our region. It will have negative repercussions. It will have political and maybe economic repercussions, which need to be evaluated very accurately," he said. Mr. Musharraf said that although members of al-Qaida are now "on the run" in Pakistan and neighborhing Afghanistan, some members may have joined forces with local extremists to carry out recent attacks against Christians in Pakistan.

"Other than al-Qaida, Pakistan has its own internal, sectarian extremism, sectarian intolerance, which leads to detrimental effects of our law and order. We are tackling that. This was internal previously. But may I say maybe there is a linkage in some cases where this al-Qaida fallout and this sectarian extremism joined to act [in] three or four terrorist acts in Pakistan, the latest ones," Mr. Musharraf said.

The Pakistani leader, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, made his comments during an address to the private Asia Society. He once again called on the international community to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict with India over the disputed region of Kashmir, which he says threatens to ignite the region.