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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Pakistan weighs up US demands
President Musharraf with US ambassador Wendy Chamberlin
Washington has handed over specific demands
Pakistan's top military commanders met for seven hours but failed to come up with a firm response to a US request for assistance over Tuesday's terror attacks.

Washington has handed over a list of specific requests to Islamabad - an ally of Afghanistan where prime suspect Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

If the government allows Pakistan to be used for attacks on Afghanistan it would be a great treachery

Maulana Samiul Haq
Diplomatic sources say the US is seeking military access to Pakistani airspace and the closure of its border with Afghanistan.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Islamabad says that there is some suggestion that the US requests might also involve some presence on the ground.

Any action against Afghanistan by US forces would be virtually impossible without such co-operation from Pakistan, correspondents say.

Pakistan's military leaders condemned the attacks in New York and Washington, but did not spell out how far they were ready to go.

Musharraf's dilemma

Earlier this week, Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf made a general pledge to help, and US Secretary of State Colin Powell said they had a "positive" telephone conversation on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell may have a carrot for Pakistan
Our correspondent says, however, that while many are appalled by the brutal attacks on the US, they may find it impossible to support Pakistani involvement in action against their neighbour.

Hardline Islamists have already warned of a public backlash if any such move was made.

"If the government allows Pakistan to be used for attacks on Afghanistan it would be a great treachery," said Maulana Samiul Haq, the leader of an umbrella group of religious political parties and Islamic militant groups.

And a former intelligence chief, Hamid Gul, said it was not in Pakistan's interests to support the Americans against the Afghans.

Strong ties

At the same time, Pakistan is feeling the weight of economic sanctions imposed by the US over 1998 nuclear tests, which include bans on foreign aid and other financial assistance.

A pro-Osama bin Laden t-shirt on sale in Peshawar
Plenty of local support for Bin Laden in Pakistan
Mr Powell has reportedly hinted that the measures, and the prospect of their abolition, could be used to press Pakistan to meet US demands.

Pakistan is one of the few countries that acknowledge the rule of the strict Islamic Taleban regime in Afghanistan.

Given Pakistan's close ties with the country, the US has long been urging Islamabad to push the Taleban to expel Mr Bin Laden.

Islamabad is also thought to have the best intelligence on Afghanistan - information that would prove crucial in any American action on that country.

On Friday, the chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Joseph Biden, told CBS news that Pakistan would have to make a commitment soon.

"They've got to choose sides," Mr Biden said.

"There is no question. You're either our friend or you're our enemy here," he said.

The BBC's John Simpson
"Pakistan's problems could be only just beginning"
President of Pakistan General Musharraf
"People of Pakistan were shocked at the attacks"
Abdul Kader Jaffer, High Commissioner for Pakistan
"Pakistan supports the world effort to eliminate this menace"
See also:

15 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's dilemma
12 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban tense as US seeks targets
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
03 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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