- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2001

The Bush administration is stepping up pressure on Pakistan to get Afghanistan to expel Osama bin Laden and shut down his terrorist networks, senior administration officials said.

Administration officials told Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar during his recent visit to Washington that the White House had a "growing body of evidence" that Islamabad was in violation of U.N. sanctions because of its military aid to the Taliban, senior U.S. officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The United States has raised concerns about Pakistani support of the Taliban before, but never at such a high level. And the exchange marked the first time the United States suggested it had proof of sanctions-busting.

However, a State Department official said he did not know of any proof the United States had that the Pakistanis were violating the arms embargo. "We don't have the smoking gun."

But other U.S. officials say the administration has proof that Pakistan is providing arms, training and other military support to the Taliban.

One U.S. official pointed to Pakistani army officers overheard speaking on military radios in Afghanistan as an example.

"He received a very straight-forward message," an official said, referring to the meeting with Mr. Sattar. "It is in their interest to change their orientation."

"He kind of looked a little dumbfounded," a senior administration official added.

The deputy chief of mission for Pakistan's embassy in Washington, Zamir Akram, said last week that "there were no accusations" in the meetings with the foreign minister.

The Americans "said they have concerns about this. We have said the sources are biased," the diplomat said. Pakistan has long denied any military cooperation with the Taliban.

U.S. concern about Pakistani military aid to the Taliban stems in part from the fact that the Taliban is harboring accused terrorist bin Laden, wanted for masterminding the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. More than 220 people were killed in the blasts.

Pakistani support also undermines U.S.-supported international efforts to isolate the Taliban, which has been criticized for religious intolerance and other human rights violations, especially against women. These efforts were codified in U.N. sanctions passed in December.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on Dec. 20 that imposes a total arms embargo on the Taliban.

The U.N. sanctions also reaffirm a flight ban against the national airline of Afghanistan and limit the travel of senior Taliban officials.

Administration officials said the White House hopes to use the implied threat of airing proof of sanctions-busting to encourage Pakistan to sever its military ties with the Taliban and deepen cooperation with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the region.

But a State Department official cautioned that the United States has little leverage with the military regime in Islamabad.

The United States already imposes two sets of sanctions against Pakistan — one set imposed after its nuclear test in 1998 and another following the military coup the following year.

Just as Mr. Sattar told Secretary of State Colin L. Powell last week that his country was making strides toward holding elections in 2002, Pakistan's military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf angered the Bush administration by dissolving the federal parliament and declaring himself president.

Following a meeting between Mr. Sattar and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, one senior State Department official said of the timing of the dissolution, "at the very least they embarrassed themselves, at the most they insulted us."

Another official commented: "We know the Pakistanis are giving moral and political support to the Taliban. It's likely they are also giving them some advice on how to conduct military operations. Before the sanctions they were giving the Taliban assistance with fuel and perhaps some ammunition."

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