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Pakistan rules out military role

A dozen people were injured when attackers opened fire on an anti-terrorist rally in Karachi on Wednesday
A dozen people were injured when attackers opened fire on an anti-terrorist rally in Karachi on Wednesday  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani government has said that while it supports the U.S.-led fight against terrorism it will not join in any military action against Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday foreign ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammad said the country would also not become a safe haven for Osama bin Laden or his followers.

"Pakistan cannot join any hostile action against Afghanistan or the Afghan people," Khan told a press conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

"The fight is not against a people or a country. The fight is against terrorism," he said.

Riaz said that if bin Laden or any associates from his al Qaeda organization tried to flee Afghanistan, they would not be welcome in Pakistan.

"We do not have any information about Osama bin Laden or [other] leaders of al-Qaeda. I don't think they will be confident of finding a safe haven in Pakistan," he said.

There are pockets of support for bin Laden in Pakistan with anti-U.S. protests a recent feature in many cities.

Although Pakistan has offered its complete cooperation with the U.S., Pakistani President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, says he believes that about 10 percent of the Islamic nation is opposed to his stance.

Protests, violence

On Wednesday at least 12 people were injured after attackers opened fire and hurled a grenade during a meeting in Karachi pledging support for the government.

Several hundred people had attended the assembly, the first of its type since the September 11 attacks in the U.S.

Islamic religious groups and some Muslim clerics have called for anti-U.S. rallies and for followers to join a holy war against the U.S. in support of bin Laden and the Taliban.

In a letter, purported to be written by bin Laden and delivered to a news agency in Afghanistan's capital Kabul earlier this week, bin Laden expressed sorrow for three protesters killed during anti-American demonstrations last week.

The letter also called on Pakistanis to support Afghanistan and resist joining a U.S.-led coalition.

"We tell our Muslim brothers in Pakistan to use all their means to resist the invasion of the American crusader forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan," the letter read.

Awkward position

Many Islamic groups have called on its followers to support bin Laden and the Taliban
Many Islamic groups have called on its followers to support bin Laden and the Taliban  

Pakistan has found itself in an awkward position as it tries to cope with the political, military and humanitarian crisis building in the region.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar warned that the outside world should not try to forcibly impose a proxy government on Afghanistan in place of the ruling Taliban.

Drawing on history, Sattar said it was "very important for the world at large to understand Afghanistan." In the past, he said, "those who intervened in Afghanistan and tried to plot their own preferred leaders on Afghanistan paid a very high price for that blunder."

Referring to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, he warned against outside forces responding favorably to requests from Afghan groups for military assistance.

"We fear that any such decision on the part of foreign powers to give assistance to one side or the other in Afghanistan is a recipe for great suffering for the people of Afghanistan," he said.

The Alliance, which controls only about 5 percent of Afghanistan's territory but remains the U.N.-recognized government, has offered its services to the United States in the event it launches strikes on Afghanistan.

Washington has warned the Taliban they will face military action unless they hand over bin Laden, the chief suspect in the attacks on New York and Washington.


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