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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 22:45 GMT
US rejects Pakistan Ramadan plea
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf announcing relief measures for Afghan refugees
General Musharraf wants a pause in bombing
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has rejected Pakistan's call to stop bombing Afghanistan during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Mr Rumsfeld - on a tour of Afghanistan's neighbours - was speaking after talks in the Pakistani capital Islamabad with President Pervez Musharraf.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Campaign to go on: US Defense Secretary
The talks were seen as crucial to maintaining Pakistani support for the US-led campaign in Afghanistan.

General Musharraf has called for a pause in the air strikes during Ramadan, which begins in mid-November.

He warned on Friday that continuing the bombing during Ramadan would have a "huge negative fallout".

But Mr Rumsfeld's message was clear - the bombing will go on.

'Sensitive' issue

Mr Rumsfeld told the press conference in Islamabad that he was aware of General Musharraf's views on a "sensitive" issue.

Our task is certainly to be sensitive to the views of the region but also to see that we aggressively deal with the terrorist networks that exist

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

But he said the US had to pursue the al-Qaeda network, which Washington blames for the 11 September terror attacks, and its Taleban protectors in Afghanistan.

He said the Taleban were no longer functioning as a full government after four weeks of US-led airstrikes.

Despite the disagreement over Ramadan, however, the emphasis at the press conference in Pakistan was on continuing co-operation between the two countries.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said his government accepted that the United States was focusing on military targets, and doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

Humanitarian concerns

In his meeting with Mr Rumsfeld, General Musharraf also raised the issue of Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis.

But Mr Rumsfeld refused to accept that the bombing campaign was worsening the situation.

Many Pakistanis are concerned about the progress of this campaign as it now enters its fifth week.

They are also anxious about the long-term impact on Pakistan and its already beleaguered economy.

Patience running out

When General Musharraf announced his support for the US-led campaign in Afghanistan, he repeatedly said the action should be short, sharp and targeted.

Four weeks later, the BBC's Jill McGivering in Islamabad says, patience in Pakistan is wearing thin.

Opposition to the US-led campaign from Pakistani religious groups has been successfully contained so far.

During Ramadan, however, when much larger groups of people congregate at mosques, the potential is thought to be greater for public expressions of dissent or even unrest.

The Pakistan Government is also concerned about the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance making strategic military gains, boosted by US support, before a broad-based alternative to the Taleban authorities has

Mr Rumsfeld has now arrived for the last stage of his five-nation tour in India, which has been frustrated at its south Asian rival's sudden admission into the international fold.

US pressure could help to force the two sides to talk, possibly even at the UN General Assembly later this month, it is thought.

The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Both have accused each other of firing across the line"
Former American Secretary of State George Schultz
"It's not true that everything that goes wrong is America's fault"
See also:

20 Sep 01 | Americas
Profile: Donald Rumsfeld
25 Oct 01 | South Asia
Rumsfeld: 'We'll get Bin Laden'
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
04 Nov 01 | South Asia
US strikes key Taleban positions
04 Nov 01 | Middle East
Taleban 'offered Bin Laden to Saudis'
04 Nov 01 | Americas
CIA office 'lost in terror attack'
04 Nov 01 | South Asia
More US soldiers sent into Afghanistan
04 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan outlines unease
04 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Blair hosts mini-summit
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