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Pakistani Prime Minister Seeks National Consensus on Iraq Policy - 2003-02-17


Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali begins a countrywide tour Tuesday to try to build a national consensus on policy toward Iraq. There are fears possible military action against Iraq could trigger domestic unrest in the Muslim nation.

The government has announced that Pakistani Prime Minister Jamali will visit all the four provinces of the country explain the government's position on Iraq and to build a national consensus.

The government hopes to do this ahead of any U.N. Security Council vote on using possible force to divest Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

Pakistan is one of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council and its vote could be crucial if the world body must decide on a resolution to explicitly authorize military action.

Prime Minister Jamali will meet regional lawmakers, political and religious leaders to discuss the emerging situation.

Pakistan has issued calls for avoiding war in Iraq and has urged the Iraqi leadership to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors.

Speaking at a weekly news conference in Islamabad Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said that war is not a good option and Pakistan supports giving more time to U.N. weapons searches. "We feel that peace should be given a chance," said Mr. Khan, "that this matter can be resolved peacefully, and all efforts should be made to resolve it peacefully."

A majority in Pakistan is opposed to military action against Iraq, but only a few hundred Pakistanis took to the streets to join last week's worldwide anti-war protests.

However religious parties here say they will unleash major demonstrations in the event of war.

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