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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Target: Terrorism - Tony Blair's Meeting Seen as Important Sign to Pakistan

Aired October 5, 2001 - 06:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is scheduled to meet with Pakistan's president later this morning.

CNN's Tom Mintier is joining us and monitoring events there out of Islamabad -- Tom.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, this visit is seen as extremely important by the Pakistan government. It is, to them, a show of support of not only the British Prime Minister Tony Blair but of the international community for the stand that the Pakistani government has taken very early and very strong in support of the United States in the war against terrorism.

Basically, President Musharraf will spend about four hours with Mr. Blair. Mr. Blair will be met at the airport after he lands at 5:30 local time. He will be met by the Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar and basically they will then motorcade to the president's location where a meeting will be held between the prime minister and the president. Then they will have dinner together and then Mr. Blair will leave. He will go on from here to New Delhi for more meetings with the prime minister there.

So it is not going to be a very long meeting, it's not going to be a long dinner, but everyone here sees it as extremely important, a very strong signal that Pakistan's role in this is an extremely important one by having Mr. Blair come this late in the week.

LIN: Tom, give us some perspective here, why is it so important that Prime Minister Blair is taking the lead role in sealing any sort of agreement or cooperation with Pakistan other -- outside of the meetings that the United States has already had with Pakistan's president?

MINTIER: Well, I think there's been little doubt about Pakistan's willingness to support this coalition but an international coalition that is being built. When you look at Mr. Blair's stops today and yesterday, stopping for a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, stopping for a visit with President Musharraf here and then Prime Minister Vajpayee in India, this is a very, very important three-legged trip for the British Prime Minister basically outlining and dealing with the regional issue here. There is a lot of tension between India and Pakistan. There was a bombing on Monday in Kashmir that immediately was being blamed by the Indians on Pakistan. So I think that will -- that issue will probably come up, the tensions between these two neighbors. You know the planners are being very, very careful to make sure that aircraft that may fly missions into Afghanistan don't do so by using Indian airspace and then flying into Pakistan because they don't want to send any erroneous radar signals on the radar screens either here or in India about overflights between the borders. So they're being very, very careful but this meeting is seen as more symbolic than really full of substance.

LIN: At the same time, Pakistan is still now the only country in the world to officially recognize the ruling Taliban as a legitimate government. The Taliban still has an ambassador based in Pakistan so what is the relationship there? How key is it that they still have diplomatic relations with the Taliban? And how is that likely to play into any conversation that takes place today with Tony Blair?

MINTIER: I'm sure it's going to come up as a topic of conversation because Pakistan, as you said, is the only link, is the only diplomatic channel that still remains open to the Taliban. The Saudis closed the mission in Saudi Arabia. United Arab Emirates also closed it and gave the Taliban 48 hours to leave. So the ambassador here -- the Taliban ambassador is really the only one who could, if indeed Mr. Blair wanted to deliver a message directly to the Taliban, because they probably didn't watch his message on TV, if he wanted to make sure that Pakistan acted maybe as an intermediary as they have two times in the past trying to get the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, he could pass on that message to the president here and that it could be passed possibly directly here in Islamabad to the Taliban's ambassador. So it's quite possible that we may see a last final effort to try to reach a diplomatic solution to this.

LIN: Anything on Tony Blair's schedule to indicate that he might pass that message on to the ambassador for the Taliban?

MINTIER: None whatsoever. They have been very, very tight lipped about the schedule and we only received it from the Pakistan government that he would indeed would be picked up at the airport at 5:30 and leave four hours later after a meeting and dinner. There was speculation in the local papers -- heavy speculation yesterday that with Mr. Blair coming to town there might be a meeting off to the side with the Taliban's ambassador, but we have not been able to confirm that -- most likely will not happen.

LIN: All right, thank you very much. Tom Mintier reporting live from Islamabad.

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