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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Pakistan shuts Kabul embassy
Photos of Bin Laden and hijackers
The US promises evidence on Bin Laden's involvement
Pakistan has withdrawn its entire diplomatic staff from the Afghan capital, Kabul, for what it said were "security reasons."

Pakistan police check
Security has been stepped up within Pakistan's borders
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Riaz Khan told journalists in Islamabad that all staff were now back in Pakistan after being withdrawn over the weekend "in view of the abnormal situation".

He said the withdrawal was temporary, but would not say when they might return.

Pakistan is the only country apart from Saudi Arabia which maintains diplomatic ties with Afghanistan's Taleban rulers.

The United Arab Emirates broke off relations with Kabul on Saturday.

US talks

The Pakistani announcement came as the US continued preparations to launch attacks on Afghanistan which has played host to Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi-born militant accused of organising the suicide attacks on New York and Washington, since 1996.

A US military delegation is holding talks in Islamabad about the level of support Pakistan could offer in any military action against the Taleban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Washington has already asked for the use of Pakistani airspace as well as help with logistics and military intelligence.

The BBC Islamabad correspondent, Susannah Price, says those opposing President Musharraf's support for the US will hope to benefit once details of Pakistani support are announced, especially if there is any move to base foreign troops inside the country.

Click here for map showing military build-up

Islamic groups have already demonstrated against any Pakistani assistance in a US attack on Afghanistan.

George Bush on phone to Russian president
Bush has been building a world coalition against terrorism
But US Secretary of State Colin Powell has dismissed concerns that Pakistan could be destabilised by its government's support for the US anti-terrorism campaign.

Mr Powell said President Musharraf was supported by his military commanders and government.

"I'm confident Pakistan will remain stable, and I have no concerns about their nuclear programme," he added.

The US has provided President Musharraf with economic benefits as a reward for his co-operation, lifting economic sanctions imposed for its 1998 nuclear tests and agreeing to reschedule some of Pakistan's debts to Washington.

An agreement was signed on Monday by the US to reschedule $379m of debt.

Washington has also said it is looking at ending sanctions imposed after the 1999 military coup when General Musharraf seized power.

Intelligence

The United States has not revealed any of its military plans, but there is speculation that it might seek access to Pakistani runways and a port to unload heavy equipment.

Pakistan not only shares a border with Afghanistan, but its previous backing of the Taleban militia, which controls about 90% of the country, has given it unrivalled access to information on the movement and deployment of its forces.

Pakistani intelligence may also be able to help in the search for Bin Laden.

However, diplomats say the Taleban has cut off access to Pakistani officials and moved key personnel since President Musharraf came out in support of Washington.

Pakistan has welcomed the US announcement that it intends to provide evidence of Bin Laden's involvement in the terror attacks.

Observers say this will help the Pakistani Government in its attempts to build a national consensus for its backing for the US.

Pakistan has said it will consider breaking off diplomatic relations with the Taleban if firm evidence is found against Bin Laden.

A high-ranking European Union delegation, led by the Belgian foreign minister, is due in Pakistan on Tuesday as part of a week-long trip to the region.




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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad
"Pakistan has already benefitted from the US lifting some of the sanctions against it"
See also:

24 Sep 01 | Americas
New York honours the dead
23 Sep 01 | Middle East
Gulf states back US
23 Sep 01 | Business
Sanctions boost for Pakistan economy
23 Sep 01 | Americas
US offers prayers for the dead
23 Sep 01 | Americas
Clinton ordered Bin Laden killing
22 Sep 01 | South Asia
Aid shortage adds to Afghan woes
22 Sep 01 | Middle East
UAE cuts ties with Taleban
16 Sep 01 | Americas
US prepares for war
23 Sep 01 | Americas
Flight passengers hailed as heroes
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