U.S. lifts sanctions as Pakistan renews support
By CNN Capitol Hill Producer Ted Barrett
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Economic and military sanctions imposed by the United States on Pakistan in 1999 to punish its military leaders for their coup against the elected government will be waived under a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The measure is designed to reward Gen. Pervez Musharraf's military government for its support of the United States' war on terrorism under way in neighboring Afghanistan.
U.S. President George W.Bush has already promised aid and waived other sanctions against Pakistan imposed after its 1998 nuclear weapons tests.
The bill, which passed the Senate earlier this month and has White House support, waives sanctions in 2002 and eases President Bush's ability to waive the sanctions in 2003.
The vote also clears the way for an expected $600 million economic assistance package for Islamabad, which would include $100 million in aid announced by Bush last month.
The decision comes as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell touched down in the Indian capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday just hours after wide-ranging meetings with leaders in Pakistan.
Powell aims to shore up regional support for the U.S.-led campaign against neighboring Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network, while keeping border, religious and cultural disputes between India and Pakistan from exploding into armed conflict.
Speaking Tuesday following preliminary discussions with Powell in Islamabad, President Musharraf said he believes the "military campaign in Afghanistan should be short and targeted," but he expressed support for the anti-terror coalition's mission.
The Pakistani leader added his nation would stand beside the United States for "as long as it took to achieve the desired result."
Speaking to reporters with Musharraf, Powell said the Taliban are "under enormous pressure" internationally and domestically.
Powell and Musharraf held meetings before and after the news conference.
Powell's visit to Pakistan occurred as anti-American protests have heated up through much of the country.
Musharraf's government backs U.S.-led airstrikes against Afghanistan, but Pakistan's conservative Muslims, spurred on by activists and religious political parties, have mounted violent protests against the U.S. action and a national strike to coincide with Powell's visit.
Powell stressed Tuesday that the United States aims to fight terrorism, not religion.
"As we met today in Pakistan, a great Muslim nation, we have no qualms with the Islamic faith," Powell said. "The campaign is against people who pervert faith in service of evil."
In what appeared to be a reference to Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance, Musharraf said no one should take advantage of a weakened Taliban.
"Durable peace in Afghanistan would only be possible through the establishment of a broad-based multiethnic government representing the demographic contours of Afghanistan freely chosen by the Afghans without outside interference," Musharraf said.
The Northern Alliance is pressing ahead on some fronts against the Taliban as U.S. airstrikes pound at the group's strongholds, weapons stockpiles and troops.
Powell met with Indian leaders Tuesday evening and will do so again Wednesday.
On the issue of Kashmir, Powell said finding a way to settle the dispute was key to both nations living peacefully.
"The Kashmir issue is essential to the relationship and can be resolved if all parties engage with a willingness to address their concerns in mutually acceptable ways," Powell said. "Issues must be resolved through peaceful political and diplomatic means, not through violence or reliance on force, but with determined respect for human rights."
Musharraf put Kashmir at the "heart of Pakistan-India tension."
"Normalization of relations will require that the Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people," he said. The majority of Kashmir's population are Muslims.
Tensions between the two nuclear neighbors flared again Monday in Kashmir as the Indian army said it shelled 11 Pakistani military posts across the cease-fire line, destroying them. The action ended some 10 months of relative inaction along the line of demarcation.
But in New Delhi, a Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the attacks were being "exaggerated."
She said local commanders opened fire in attempts to stop infiltrations, and 81 mm mortars were the largest weapons used. She said the Indian government was not trying to escalate the situation along the Line of Control dividing the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled portions of the troubled region.
The spokeswoman added that field commanders acted without consulting with higher-level officials.
Indian army officials had said earlier that the shelling was in retaliation for attacks overnight Monday by Pakistani forces against three power stations.
Pakistani officials reported attacks on the Pakistani side near the Line of Control. A senior official said one woman was killed and 25 civilians were injured in shelling.
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