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Pakistan Ready to Cooperate with US - 2001-09-19

U.S. officials say Pakistan is cooperating in the effort to bring to justice those responsible for last week's terror attacks in New York and Washington. The United States has asked Pakistan to provide the use of its airspace and close its border with Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden, who has been named "the prime suspect" behind the attacks by U.S. officials, is reported to be hiding.

U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin told reporters a "technical level" American delegation will arrive to discuss details of the cooperation agreement with officials in Pakistan. She says Pakistani leaders have set no preconditions for assisting the United States if it decides to launch strikes against terrorist bases in Afghanistan. However, cooperation has a price.

"President Musharraf has stood by us in our requests for assistance during a period when the United States has asked for it," said Ambassador Chamberlin. "We are quite aware of the needs that Pakistan has. You will find that we will stand by our friends who stand by us. We are currently looking at any number of ways to be responsive to Pakistan, as they have been responsive to us."

Pakistan has been a main supporter of the ruling Taleban movement in Afghanistan. Taleban leaders say Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden is innocent of the terrorism charges and have vowed to protect him as the guest of the country.

Pakistan is believed to be asking for economic assistance in return for helping any possible U.S. military operation. For siding with the United States, Pakistan is facing a threat of attack by the Taleban, as well as pressure from hard-line Islamic groups at home. Major Islamic parties are planing to hold nationwide demonstrations on Friday. Authorities say they have taken "extraordinary security measures" to counter any backlash from these groups. Riaz Mohammad Khan is a spokesman for Pakistan Foreign Ministry. "We are not oblivious of the problem and the seriousness of the situation," he said. "The government is acutely conscious of all the problems it can face. But in critical times, the leadership has to take decisions in the best interest of the people of the country and the security of the country."

Ambassador Chamberlin says the United States will share any information against Osama bin Laden with Pakistan. "We are in close consultations with this government," she said. "I have assured them at all levels that our investigation is continuing. The FBI now has thousands of pieces of information in this investigation. It is moving fast and, as Secretary [of State Colin] Powell has said, it is developing Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect. When it is appropriate, I am certain my government will make available ample proof where this investigation has taken us."

Pakistan has promised to cooperate with the United States in the event of an anti-terrorism military action. But it refuses to talk about the specifics of the cooperation until Washington reveals its military objectives.