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Pakistan receives evidence of bin Laden links

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The United States has presented to Pakistan evidence they claim links Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Bush administration has already started briefing its closest allies on the details of its case against the man it believes is the terrorist mastermind in the acts that killed about 6,000 people in New York and Washington.

During a 90-minute session in Islamabad, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin updated Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on the investigation into the terror attacks and other topics of interest between the two nations, the U.S. Embassy told CNN.

"Pakistan is interested in receiving the evidence," Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Khan said ahead of the briefing.

"It is important and a fair expectation, both Pakistan and the U.N. secretary general have said the evidence should be shared," he added.

The Pakistani government was an early supporter of the United States following the terror attacks and promised the U.S. its "unstinted cooperation".

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It has already said it will allow the U.S. the use of its airspace in a military campaign and will provide logistical, as well as intelligence, assistance if it should decide to launch a military strike against Afghanistan.

It has ruled out allowing U.S. troops to use Pakistan as an operating front and also exluded the use of Pakistani troops in any offensive in Afghanistan.

But both Musharraf and the country's foreign minister have said they would like to see some evidence of bin Laden's involvement to justify their support.

Increasing pressure

Pakistan has found itself under increasing international and domestic pressure as the crisis continues to mount.

Internationally, it is the only country still maintaining diplomatic ties with the Taliban. It also has committed to supporting a U.S.-led anti-terror campaign.

However, aligning itself with the U.S. has caused a domestic backlash from what Musharraf says is only a small minority of Pakistan's predominantly Muslim population.

Musharraf has been consulting with media, political and religious leaders as well as student bodies to gauge the reaction to his government's stance.

Once presented with the evidence purportedly linking bin Laden, Musharraf will be able to use it within his own cadre of senior and commanders in the army to strengthen his argument for the level of support he has promised the U.S.

This he hopes will erode any backlash from the deep resentment towards the U.S. that exists throughout parts of Pakistan.

Although there have been numerous anti-U.S. demonstrations, as yet an escalation of anti-American sentiment has largely not materialized. But fears of an escalation still exist.

The government has banned unauthorized public assemblies of more than five people and is now faced with a challenge to see how much pressure to put on anti-government groups.

Anti-U.S. protests in Quetta

'Afghanistan = American graveyard' warns one protester in Peshawar
'Afghanistan = American graveyard' warns one protester in Peshawar  

This challenge is likely to be tested Tuesday with many Islamic clerics calling for anti-U.S. demonstrations throughout Pakistan.

In Quetta, thousands of pro-Taliban supporters rallied on Tuesday in one of the largest demonstrations in the city since September 11.

The protest was organized by the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam party -- one of the more fundamentalist Islamic parties in Pakistan.

The party has been aligned with the Taliban in the past and has called for a fatwa, an Islamic religious edict, against the United States and against Pakistan if U.S. troops are based in Pakistan.

The party's leading cleric helped elect Mullah Mohammed Omar to lead the Taliban.

With traditional black and white striped flags, the protesters snaked their way past a hotel where many international journalists are staying.

The demonstrators chanted, "Death to America," and promised Afghanistan would become a graveyard for U.S. troops.


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