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  August 2003

Special Article
Musharraf explains Pakistan's policy regarding Israel

Islamabad: President Pervez Musharraf told an Arabic daily, he had not held any contacts with the Israelis.

In an interview with Arabic daily "Ashraq Al-Awsat", on July 19 the President said Israel's continued repressive policies against the Palestinians and its refusal to vacate the occupied territories rendered the recognition of Israel as unacceptable for the people of Pakistan.

Musharraf said a new phase had started with the announcement of "road-map" for Palestinian state by 2005 aiming at the normalization of Israel's relations with Arab countries. He explained that Pakistan is monitoring the evolving situation and consulting friendly Arab and Islamic countries. "The government will take into account the sentiments and opinion of the Pakistani people and take a decision at the appropriate time in the best national interest."

Referring to any Palestinian to Pakistan's recognition of Israel, the President said, "We have not received any Palestinian reaction so far". He however, clarified that in view Pakistan's consistent support for the Palestinian cause, Pakistan can only consider the question of recognition of Israel once the Middle East problem is resolved by establishment of an independent Palestinian state and withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories.

Musharraf said Pakistan has consistently supported the right of the Palestinian people for their own state, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. "We believe that the only way to ensure lasting peace in the Middle East is through resumption of negotiations leading to a comprehensive, just and durable peace settlement, consistent with UN resolution and the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of self-determination."

Musharraf said Pakistan has accordingly supported all recent initiatives, including Crown Prince Abdullah's Arab Peace Initiative and UNSC Resolution 1397 which envisage a Palestinian State with secure and recognized borders.

He said Pakistan also supported recently announced Quartet's (US, EU, Russia & UN) three-phased "road-map" for Palestinian state by 2005, as a positive step towards a just and durable peace in Middle East. The President said Pakistan sincerely hoped that the plan would be expeditiously implemented, without allowing any party to circumvent its implementation. Musharraf clarified that Pakistan has not taken any decision with regard to the question of having relations with Israel.

About any new information about Osama bin Laden, Musharraf said, "we have no information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. It cannot be said with certainty whether he is dead or alive".

About having any al-Qaeda elements, the President said, "we do not have any al-Qaeda detainee in Pakistan. They have been extradited to the countries concerned soon after their arrests."

Musharraf said Pakistan did not have any contact with Iran over the reported detention of al-Qaeda leadership. However, Pakistan is working closely with Iran to root out terrorism in all its forms and manifestation.

Answering a question about the strength of al-Qaeda', President Musharraf said that the recent arrests of the top al-Qaeda operatives have seriously undermined the ability of the organisation to carry out acts of terrorism in an organised manner. He said it would be rather premature to say that al-Qaeda is absolutely unable to conduct terrorist operation.

Replying to a question about Pak-Afghan relations, Musharraf said, "It is our earnest desire to augment the existing ties of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan on the basis of sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs of each other".

The President said Pakistan has been taking part in reconstruction of Afghanistan. He said, "We remain committed to Bonn Process and are extending full support to the interim administration of President Hamid Karzai".

Musharraf also hoped that Maghreb Arab countries would extend full help and support to Pakistan to resolve the core issue of Kashmir. He said the Maghreb countries (Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco) will continue to extend their support for Pakistan's endeavours for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He hoped that these countries would use their good offices to urge India to enter into a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan to ensure peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

Replying to a question to activate the role of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), President Musharraf said; it is the only international form which brings together the Muslim countries on a single platform, therefore strengthening of the OIC would be an important step forward in realisation of the true solidarity of Islam and restoration of the past glory of the Islamic world.

The President said there is a growing realisation among the core OIC member states of urgent need to re-invigorate the OIC to effectively meet the multifarious contemporary challenges facing the Muslim Ummah.

Being a founding member, Pakistan is committed to the objectives and role of the OIC, and would actively support any initiative aimed at its strengthening and revitalization, he said. The president hoped that next OIC Summit being held in Kuala Lumpur would address the issue to making this forum more effective. He said the OIC member states must seriously think about settling their internal disputes in the spirit of the Islamic brotherhood, which would pave the way for greater mutual understanding and co-operation.

Musharraf said this organisation should have to put greater emphasis on socio-cultural contacts and economic and trade cooperation in the Islamic world to put real substance in their political relations.

Answering a question about participation in peace process in Iraq, President Musharraf said Pakistan has been requested for participation in the peace keeping force in Iraq but the matter is under consideration and so far no decision has been taken.

The President said during his meeting with the US president recently he discussed issues of interest to both sides, including the situation in Iraq. "The US has requested Pakistan to participate in the peace-keeping operation in Iraq and in principle, we are sympathetic to the request to make available our troops as part of Iraqi' stabilization force, provided there is UN or OIC legal cover" the President added.

He said Pakistan is working out the legal details and examining other aspects of the issue in view of the complexities involved before sending troops to Iraq. Musharraf said regarding sending troops to Iraq, final decision will be taken keeping in view Pakistan's national interests and relations with Muslim countries of Middle East.