- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The United States yesterday asked Pakistan to hand over Ahmed Omar Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, but Islamabad suggested that it would hold him for its own investigation.
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, made the request in a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad. It came up again later in a telephone conversation between the Pakistani leader and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
"We have made clear from our point of view that we believe he's committed crimes against Americans and that we want to see him in our custody so that we can pursue justice," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, "Pakistan has received the case well." But he cautioned against expectations for an "instant resolution."
"I anticipate there will be continued conversations for some period of time now about this," he said.
Saeed, who has confessed to planning Mr. Pearl's January abduction, had already been indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States in the 1994 kidnapping of four Westerners in India, including one American.
The suspect spent five years in an Indian jail for that crime but was freed as part of a hostage-prisoner swap after Muslim militants hijacked an Indian airplane in December 1999.
In Islamabad, an Interior Ministry official told the Associated Press that Pakistan wanted to hold on to Saeed for now, hoping that he can help locate Mr. Pearl's body and identify his killers.
Mr. Fleischer also acknowleged Pakistan's jurisdiction in the case.
"A crime, a murder, was committed in their country, and they have their own ways and laws of dealing with it. It's not atypical at a time like that, when another nation makes a request, for that request to be considered, and it takes time," he said.
Mr. Pearl disappeared in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on Jan. 23 while researching a story on Islamic militants. A videotape showing his already-dead body being decapitated was sent to U.S. authorities in that city late last week.
Although Pakistani officials didn't say what response Gen. Musharraf gave the U.S. officials yesterday, they noted that Islamabad was reviewing the request to extradite Saeed, who was born to Pakistani parents in London in 1973.
Pakistani officials also recalled that Islamabad had in the past handed over to the United State suspected nationals such as a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, even though there is no formal extradition agreement between the two countries.
But Mr. Boucher insisted that there are provisions under which Saeed could be delivered. He cited a 1931 agreement between the United States and Britain, which then ruled Pakistan as part of India. In 1952, independent Pakistan upheld the agreement.
Handing Saeed over could be further complicated if he is proved to have British citizenship. Although he was born in Britain, his citizenship was not clear.
Shortly after Gen. Musharraf's meeting with Mrs. Chamberlin yesterday, Saeed appeared in a Karachi court under heavy security for formal identification by a Pakistani reporter as the man he introduced to Mr. Pearl before he vanished.
Mr. Pearl's wife, Mariane, who is seven months' pregnant with their first child, said yesterday she still has great affection for Pakistan and praised investigators who tried to rescue him.
"My feelings and my affection for this country have not changed because of what happened here. On the contrary, the people have shown tremendous support to me. They have shared my sorrow," she said in an interview with CNN from Karachi.

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