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Pakistan's delicate position



By CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel and Producer Elise Labott

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the world waits to see if Afghanistan's ruling Taliban will hand over accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, more information is emerging as to exactly what message Pakistan's president gave the Taliban earlier this week.

A senior Pakistani official told CNN a high-level Pakistani delegation delivered a letter to the Taliban from General Pervez Musharraf which included four main points:

-- A demand to hand over Osama bin Laden

-- A demand to hand over more than a dozen of his associates

-- A demand to close down all terrorist training camps in Afghanistan

-- A call to allow a neutral country to verify these steps were taken

As one senior Pakistani official put it -- "the ball is in Mullah Omar's court."

Mullah Omar is the head of the ruling Taliban militia. He's expected to announce his decision Friday as to bin Laden's fate.

The Taliban Islamic council has said that bin Laden should be asked to leave the country voluntarily.

Nightmare

RESOURCES
At a glance: Pakistan  
 

The crisis has plunged Pakistan into a geographical and political nightmare.

The country is sandwiched between Afghanistan on the west and arch-foe India on the east. Musharraf appealed Wednesday for his people's support and trust as he laid out reasons for joining the United States in an international coalition against terrorism. In a nationally televised address, he said Pakistan has received requests from the United States to share information, allow use of its airspace and provide logistical support.

And while military retaliation is not imminent, Musharraf said, the United States has the support of a United Nations resolution -- backed by Islamic nations -- to fight terrorism.

He emphasized that any decision Pakistan makes will be for the "right cause" and "according to the tenets of Islam."

And a wrong decision on Pakistan's part, he said, could damage all those concerns and "lead to an end that is unendurable," one that could "put in danger Pakistan's very existence."

Musharraf said Pakistan, which is under U.S. economic sanctions that were imposed after its nuclear testing in 1998, must face a choice between joining the international community -- thereby gaining the ability to influence decisions on the use of force against Afghanistan -- or being cut off.

Interagency team

Senior State Department officials told CNN a U.S. interagency team is expected to leave for Pakistan this weekend to discuss details on how the United States would like Pakistan to cooperate in its fight against bin Laden and his terrorist network.

The delegation is likely to be headed by Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs Christine Rocca, they said.

Rocca will be accompanied by officials from the Pentagon and National Security Council as well as intelligence officials, they said.

U.S. officials said that Pakistani cooperation with Washington on its coalition against bin Laden would pave the way for a quick lifting of some of the sanctions.

State Department and Pakistani officials said that Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman has been meeting with members of Congress to discuss lifting of some of the sanctions.






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