Diplomatic Ups And Downs

Argentina's Jorgelina Cravero serves to Belgium's Justine Henin, during their women's singles first round match on the Number One Court at Wimbledon, Monday, June 25, 2007. Henin won 6-3, 6-0.
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
The United States lifted key sanctions against Pakistan and India imposed over the nations' nuclear weapons programs, apparently in appreciation of their help in the fight against terrorism. Saudi Arabia rejected a U.S. request to use its air bases for its military campaign.

Pakistan and India on Sunday welcomed the lifting of U.S. sanctions, a move taken by Washington to shore up support in key South Asian nations for President George W. Bush's war against terrorism.

"Pakistan appreciates the decision and is confident that it will help strengthen the mutually cooperative relationship between our two countries," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.

Pakistan's assistance is considered key because it borders Afghanistan and has collected extensive intelligence on that country's Taliban rulers.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday lauded Pakistan's decision to support the U.S. offensive against bin Laden as "courageous" and predicted the government of President Pervez Musharraf would remain stable.

Powell made his comments on the NBC News broadcast "Meet the Press."

Pakistan wants to make sure no civilians get killed, a senior official said on Sunday.

"By cooperating with the United States, we can...ensure there are no civilian casualties," said Tariq Aziz, principal secretary to military ruler President Pervez Musharraf.

His remarks underscored the dilemma facing Pakistan after it threw its weight behind the U.S. "war of terror" to hunt down Osama bin Laden, sheltering in Afghanistan under the protection of the ruling Taliban and wanted for masterminding the U.S. attacks on September 11 that killed nearly 7,000 people.

In India, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao called the U.S. move a "welcome development."

"With the removal of sanctions, we can strengthen a broad-based, forward-looking and mutually beneficial relationship with the U.S.," Rao said.

The sanctions were imposed over the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons programs.

Pro-Taliban religious parties held a second day of protests in Pakistan on Saturday, but opposition to President Pervez Musharraf's pledge to help the United States track down Osama bin Laden appeared to be waning.

Saudi Arabia is balking at a U.S. request to use a new command center on a military base inside the nation's borders in any forthcoming air campaign, a Saudi official said Sunday.

Secretary of State Colin Powell denied that Saudi Arabia had rejected the U.S. requests. "They have been very responsive to everything we have asked
for," he said.

Powell is attempting to persuade Saudi Arabia to reverse its decade-old policy prohibiting the United States from staging or commanding offensive air operations from Saudi air bases, the Post reported.

The Washington Post, quoting unidentified U.S. defense officials, said Saudi resistance to use of the Prince Sultan Air Base has forced U.S. military planners to consider moving the operations center to anoher unspecified country, which could delay any air strikes for weeks.

A refusal by Saudi Arabia could undercut U.S. efforts to assemble a broad coalition in its effort to destroy Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden's operations in Afghanistan, where he resides as a "guest" of the ruling Taliban.

In a positive sign, the United Arab Emirates has broken diplomatic relations with the Taliban government in Afghanistan, leaving only Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with official ties to the Afghan regime.

The official Emirates News Agency quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying that the Emirates had tried during the past few days to persuade the Taliban to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution for it to surrender bin Laden for trial.

The official expressed regret that the Taliban had failed to respond positively.

"The United Arab Emirates does not believe that it is possible to continue to maintain diplomatic relations with a government that refuses to respond to the clear will of the international community," the official said.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview published Saturday that the United States should "hold its fire" in the wake of terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.

"What I don't stop telling the United States is: don't rush into it. Wait until your investigation is completed," Mubarak told Le Figaro newspaper. "Hold your fire until you know who the criminals are."

Mubarak said he has "objections" to joining a U.S.-led coalition of nations that could strike at terrorists responsible for last week's attacks.

"I want to underscore that Egypt has offered its full cooperation to the United States in hunting down the assassins," Mubarak said.

However, Mubarak said that any U.S. retaliation that caused innocent people to die would fuel greater hatred against the United States and any allies who participate in the coalition.

Turkey, a NATO member and Muslim nation, and the Philippines both pledged logistical support to the United States Saturday in any response to the attacks.

Ankara said it would allow U.S. transport aircraft to use Turkish airspace and air bases, while Manila said U.S. air force planes would be allowed to refuel in the Philippines.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with President Bush and convened Russia's top defense and security officials Saturday to discuss fighting international terrorism, the Kremlin said.

Putin has been cautious as he considers how deeply to support the United States in its war on terrorism, one of the biggest decisions he has faced since taking office last year.

Secretary Powell said the U.S. has had indirect contact on terrorism with Iran, noting U.S. interest in obtaining that country's cooperation. But, he said, any Iranian commitment must be against "all forms of terrorism, not just one kind."

Iran is strongly opposed to Afghanistan's Taliban movement. But the United States has regarded Irn itself as a terrorist menace for years.

Powell suggested that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will try to learn more about the Iranian position when he visits Tehran next week.

Britain's foreign secretary is planning to visit Iran, amid hints Iran may be willing to join a U.S.-led fight against terrorism. Iran's president has told Britain he's in complete solidarity with the United States following the attacks.

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