Musharraf backs U.S., puts pressure on Taliban
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has promised full cooperation with the United States in its fight against terrorism following the attacks on Washington DC and New York City.
In reports carried in official media, Musharraf said the "carnage" in the United States had raised the struggle "to a new level".
"Pakistan has been extending cooperation to international efforts to combat terrorism in the past and will continue to do so," he told the APP news agency.
"All countries must join hands in this common cause. I wish to assure President Bush and the U.S. Government of our unstinted cooperation in the fight against terrorism," he added.
"We regard terrorism as an evil that threatens the world community."
Pakistan is one of the few countries to have formal relations with the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan -- the others are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
For several years the Taliban have been giving asylum to exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, the man fingered by intelligence officials as the prime suspect in Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
Earlier U.S. officials announced that they had asked Pakistan whether it would help in the response to the New York and Washington attacks.
It is unclear whether Musharraf's comments were made before or after that request was made.
On Wednesday Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi in Washington and the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, Wendy Chamberlin, is expecting to hold talks with Musharraf himself on Thursday.
"We thought it would be useful to point out to the Pakistani leadership at every level that we are looking for and expecting their fullest cooperation ... as well as (to see) how helpful they might be if we find a basis to act on that information," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington Wednesday.
Bin Laden, who heads the shadowy Al Qaeda group, was already on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list after being indicted on suspicion of masterminding the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa and several other attacks on U.S. targets.
Sources have told CNN that following Tuesday's attacks Pakistani officials have had at least one meeting with Taliban leaders urging them to hand over bin Laden to the U.S.
Although the outcome of that meeting was described as inconclusive, the Taliban have since suggested that they would consider extraditing him if it was able to examine the evidence.
They have, however, said they believe that bin Laden lacks the capability in terms of communications and resources to organize attacks of the magnitude seen in the U.S.
They have also called on the U.S. to hold back from any strikes on Afghanistan in retaliation for what they said was a "sad humanitarian catastrophe".
Speaking in the southern Afghan town of Kandahar, Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutmaen told Reuters any retaliatory strikes would only sow further hatred in the region.
"If innocent and sinless people suffer, then it is certain that on the level of the region, hatred will further increase, the result of which will be similar to the suicide incidents," he said.
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