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'Pakistan Will Not Support War Against Iraq,' says Pakistani PM

Pakistan's prime minister Zafarullah Jamali says that his country has decided it will not support war against Iraq. In a televised address to the nation, the Pakistani leader has appealed for more time to find a peaceful solution of the Iraq crisis.

Prime Minister Jamali says that Pakistan has based its position on principles and national interests. But he would not say how his country will vote if a new resolution on Iraq comes before the U.N. Security Council.

"We have taken a decision that it is going to be very difficult for Pakistan to support the war against Iraq," Mr. Jamali said. "This goes in the interest of my country, in the interest of my nation [and] in the interest of my government."

Pakistan is among the six elected members of the U.N. Security Council that are still undecided about how to vote on a U.S.-sponsored resolution seeking authorization for a war on Iraq. Prime Minister Jamali says he hopes that appeals for more time to solve the crisis peacefully will be heard.

"We would not want to see the destruction of the Iraqi people, we would not appreciate the destruction of Iraq as a country," he said. "It is very difficult for any Pakistani to endure that. Hence it is an appeal to the United Nations, to the countries in the world, that more time for peace should be given to Iraq."

Prime Minister Jamali's government fears that an attack on Iraq could to lead to unrest among Pakistan's mainly Muslim population. It has come under increasing pressure from political opponents led by an alliance of Islamic parties to vote against a war on Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have taken part in anti-war demonstrations in recent days.

Some members of Mr. Jamali's ruling party have indicated that Pakistan will not support a United Nations Security Council resolution seeking to authorize a war on Iraq. They say that Pakistan is likely to abstain from voting on the proposed resolution.

"The bottom line of all protests in Pakistan is that peace should be given a chance and we should not participate in a war against Iraq and that is what the prime minister has said," said Mushahid Hussain, a senator-elect of Prime Minister Jamali's ruling Pakistan Muslim League party. "And that is also my conclusion that Pakistan, if it abstains as seems likely, that will meet the aspiration of the people of Pakistan and also serve the national interest of Pakistan."

Leaders of some Islamic parties, however, say Pakistan should vote no on the resolution, not just abstain.

A draft resolution sponsored by the United States and Britain gives Iraq until next Monday to comply with U.N. demands and give up suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The security council vote on the proposed resolution is expected later this week.

Pakistan is in a delicate position on the issue. While it opposes the U.S. threat to use force to disarm Iraq, Islamabad has been a close ally of Washington in the war on terror. The United States has supplied Pakistan with considerable aid, and it is a major market for Pakistan's exports, which means Islamabad may be reluctant to directly vote against the United States.