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Target: Terrorism: British Prime Minister, Pakistani President Give Press Conference

Aired October 5, 2001 - 10:45   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Live now to Islamabad, Tony Blair and the Pakistani president.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Pakistan is a key member of the international coalition condemning the 11th of September atrocities.

And his courage and leadership are not just a tribute to him, but serve directly the interests of Pakistan.

I want to make two points to you very clearly. The first is that the evidence against Osama bin Laden is overwhelmingly compelling. Several of the hijackers have been traced directly to Al Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

We can see very clearly the preparations by bin Laden for the attack and admissions by his associates afterwards as a result of the intelligence we received. And we will release here the document put in the British Parliament outlining part of the basis for our conclusions.

Obviously, there are difficulties and sensitivity and confidentiality. But there is no serious doubt in my mind that bin Laden organized these atrocities.

Secondly, any action we take is not against the Afghan people who are his victims, too. Still less is any action directed against Islam. I want to make it clear, Islam is a peaceful religion. The vast majority of Muslims throughout the world, including here in Pakistan and in Britain, were appalled by the 11th of September atrocity.

Such an act which spilt the blood of hundreds of innocent Muslims as well as others is wholly contrary to the proper teaching of the Koran.

I read, personally, the message of the Koran in so far as it can be translated, and the God of the Koran is merciful, peaceful and good. The 11th of September was an outrage against the civilized values of all peoples of all faiths throughout of the world. This was not a crime against the West; it was a crime against humanity. It has been condemned, therefore, by Muslims the world over.

President Musharraf and I have had detailed and very worthwhile discussions. We have agreed that if the current Taliban regime fails to yield up bin Laden and it falls, then its successor must be broadbased, with every key ethnic grouping represented, including the Pashtun, and that Pakistan has a valid interest in close involvement with how such a successor regime might be established.

We have also agreed to restart UK-Pakistan defense cooperation on measures for bilateral assistance and to help to work toward a new IMF program for Pakistan, having completed successfully the first phase of its present program.

In addition, we will support strongly the European Union trade and cooperation agreement with Pakistan due to be finalized on Monday. And we stand ready to help in issues like debt and support for budgetary programs in the context of the new IMF program that I'm sure will be agreed.

In particular, we have made it clear that we and other countries will provide the resources necessary to help Pakistan cope with the significant refuge problem on its borders and in Pakistan.

We are, as you know, providing some $40 million to help Afghan refugees and a further $15 million to assist the host communities for these refugees in Pakistan. We believe that the solution to the humanitarian crisis is every bit as important as any action that is undertaken.

The 11th of September has changed the world. Nations make their choices as to whether they will help in the fight against international terrorism or stand aside. I believe that Pakistan has made the right choice. The result will be a significant and lasting strengthening of the outside world's relations with Pakistan.

We in Britain will play our full part. We will not walk away, neither will others. Finally, I welcome the road map to democracy set out by President Musharraf in August. That is the right path. Britain and Pakistan have a shared history that, as you all know, goes back many years.

We are bound together still, not least by the almost 75 million British citizens of Pakistani origin. Now is the time to use our past and our present friendship to help resolve the current crisis for the improvement of a lot of people, not just in this region, but again throughout the world.

Thank you.

LT. GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it was my pleasure and the pleasure of my government to have welcomed Prime Minister Blair and his team to Pakistan. I would like to express my gratitude to him for having taken this journey to Pakistan and may I also say to have initiated this process of a new beginning of restoring the contacts between our two countries.

We discussed in great detail all issues of bilateral concern.

We obviously focused a lot on the outcome of what happened, the tragic events of 11 September. I personally condemn this human tragedy that occurred and also condole with the United States government on this tragedy.

We exchanged notes on the issue of Afghanistan. On the issue of evidence, I personally also and my government feels that there is evidence which is leading to an association between this terrorist act and Osama bin Laden. However, we are not here standing in judgment on the details of this evidence.

However, we did, I would say with satisfaction, understand each other's concerns on the happenings in Afghanistan and likely future events in Afghanistan.

Other than this, we did also discuss our bilateral relations. I would like to express my gratitude to the prime minister for his understanding of the problems being confronted by Pakistan and my government.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the prime minister for his generous assistance to us in the economic field and also his assurances of future assistance to Pakistan. I'm extremely grateful to your prime minister.

And I also would like to take this opportunity of saying that Pakistan certainly looks forward to much healthier, much closer, much better relations with the United Kingdom in the future.

Thank you very much.


BLAIR: I would say two things in answer to that. The first thing is that all the way through, we have made it clear that the Taliban regime has a choice: It either yields up Osama bin Laden -- and I'm immensely grateful for the statement of the president, that he believes the re-submissioned evidence for an indictment, even though he does not sit in judgment himself -- but they should yield up Osama bin Laden and his associates or they could come to people shielding him and therefore, for us, people who are a legitimate enemy.

Now, the second thing I would say to you, however, is that it is absolutely clear that if the Taliban, the current Taliban regime does fall, then it is important that any successive regime is broadbased, involves all ethnic groups, obviously has to include the Pushtun, which is very important, indeed, and has to take account of the fact that Pakistan has a valid interest in close involvement with the arrangements for any such successor regime.

Now, I think all that is clear between us, and I think that that is itself, an important step forward because in the end, what we've got to try and do for the people of Afghanistan is give them some sort of secure and stable future where their people can develop and prosper without the repression there's been in the past and also for countries like Pakistan to make sure that they have a neighbor that is peaceful and stable.


MUSHARRAF: Well, we have spoken about the future in Afghanistan to the betterment of Afghanistan and of keeping the interest for Pakistan in view.

And certainly one has to -- one did take into account all possible eventualities coming in place in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, do you think that after your discussions with President Musharraf that military action is inevitable, that the Taliban will not give up Osama bin Laden? And do you think that military action is the only way to remove the Taliban government, because both of you are clearly talking about the Taliban government going in Afghanistan?

BLAIR: Well, I'd simply say to you, I mean, I don't intend to discuss the details of any possible military action, but simply go back again to the events of the 11th of September and afterwards. We did not react swiftly or in haste to that, in a military sense. The United States of America has behaved in a responsible way, by considering both the evidence and also the right way to proceed.

And what is important is that any action that we take is proportionate and is targeted, that it is not directed against the Afghan people, because they are not our enemy in this situation, but against those who have permitted acts of terrorism and those who are shielding them.

And I think, and I would like to take this opportunity here in Pakistan to state that very clearly indeed. Our desire is simply to see justice done. Not for revenge, but for justice. To make sure that people who have been exporting terrorism around the world are prevented from carrying on doing so and that the Afghan people themselves, who in many ways have been victims in this, are given a stable and secure future.


MUSHARRAF: Well, we have agreed to cooperate in the field of information exchange and intelligence, and we've also agreed to give the utilization of our airspace to move against terrorists, terrorism in Afghanistan, and also provide logistic support. These are the assurances that we've given, and modalities are yet to be worked out.

Thank you very much.

HEMMER: Perhaps the most critical meeting -- face-to-face meeting anyway -- we have seen in the past 3 1/2 weeks, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair going to Islamabad and meeting with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf. It was largely believed that Tony Blair would again make a case about the evidence that he talked about yesterday in the House of Commons, back in London.

To that effect, we heard the Pakistani president say, "There is evidence leading to terrorists attacks and Osama bin Laden." However, he did not and would not comment further on that.

A very critical meeting today. These two talked about the history between their two nations; 60 years ago, it was much different than it is today. But clearly, over the past couple of decades, the relationship between Great Britain and Pakistan has been strained, to say the least.




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