Secretary of State Colin Powell met President Pervez Musharraf and other senior Pakistan officials in Islamabad for talks on terrorism, nuclear-non-proliferation and India-Pakistan peace efforts. Underlining the increasingly-close bilateral relationship, Mr. Powell said Pakistan is being designated as a major non-NATO U.S. ally.
The designation as a major non-NATO ally will give Pakistan priority treatment in some areas of military cooperation with the United States, including arms procurement and loans. But it is perhaps more important symbolically as a reflection of the growing cooperation between the two countries in areas such as the anti-terrorism fight, in which Mr. Powell says the two countries have forged a "crucial" alliance.
At a news conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Kurdsheed Kasuri, Mr. Powell said the United States appreciates the sacrifices Pakistan is making in the war on terror, including its troop losses in a drive this week against al-Qaida fighters and Taleban remnants along the Afghan border.
The Pakistani effort coincides with an offensive by U.S. led forces on the Afghan side of the border aimed at denying the militants, and perhaps even al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, a haven in the tribal areas.
Mr. Powell used the Islamabad talks to press for more information on the proliferation activities of leading Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Kadeer Khan, including whether Pakistani government officials past or present may have had a role in providing weapons secrets to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.
He told reporters such information is essential to determine if the proliferation ring has been definitively shut down. "I think this is a logical and proper question to ask, and I am sure that the Pakistani authorities would want it known as well," says Mr. Powell. "What we are interested in is going after this network, this network that was providing technology to develop nuclear weapons, to some very dangerous countries around the world. And it is in our mutual interest, the interest of Pakistan and the rest of the world, to make sure that the network has been completely pulled up, and make sure that all those who were participating in the network, one way or the other, have been identified."
The Pakistani Foreign Minister said he shared Mr. Powell's interest in fully dismantling the Khan network, while also suggesting that the nuclear scientist operated with a great deal of independence from the Islamabad government:
"I assured the Secretary that it is in Pakistan's own interest, as a nuclear power, that no proliferation take place, and that we are going to spare no effort to try and make efforts pull this out root and branch, whatever this network is," says Mr. Kasuri. "And there will be complete sharing with the United States and with other friendly countries on that issue of non-proliferation. And I explained the particular circumstances in which Dr. Kadeer Khan enjoyed a total autonomy, was able to do that, and I went on to explain in some detail."
The Pakistani Foreign Minister said he and Mr. Powell reached an agreement on screening Pakistani terrorist suspects held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base in Cuba with the intention of releasing those found not to pose a security threat. He also said he raised concerns about U.S. travel warnings for Pakistan that Pakistani officials say have hurt business and tourism, and restrictive visa procedures for Pakistanis seeking to visit the United States.
Mr. Powell hailed the peace process underway between India and Pakistan, but said in the end its success depends the two parties themselves. He refused to be drawn into debate over of Kashmir, and whether as Pakistan insists, it should be seen as the "central" issue in the South Asian rivalry.
... Payvand News - 3/18/04 ... --