- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

The U.S.-led war on terrorism has been effective so far in "policing" al Qaeda extremists, but is not doing enough to root out the causes of terrorism over the long term, Pakistan's foreign minister said yesterday.

"In the short term, yes, policing is extremely important," Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said in a luncheon meeting with reporters and editors at The Washington Times.

"But in the medium and long term, the U.S. must use its influence to bring about a peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes. These are the breeding grounds for terrorists and they should be redressed."

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr. Kasuri also said Pakistan's government is concerned that U.S. military action against Iraq will divert attention from the war on terrorism and lead to a destabilization of Pakistan.

"We are very apprehensive of the fallout of the war in Iraq," Mr. Kasuri said.

However, should war in Iraq come, "we would definitely want action within the framework of the United Nations so that our public opinion can be neutralized," he said.

Elements in Pakistan that are hostile to the government of President Pervez Musharraf and the United States "will try their best to destabilize Pakistan," Mr. Kasuri said, noting that "we have made our concerns known to the United States."

Mr. Kasuri met this week with top officials of the Bush administration, including President Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The U.S. officials assured Mr. Kasuri that the United States remains committed to helping Pakistan and to rebuilding Afghanistan in the aftermath of military operations to oust the Taliban militia from power.

Asked if Pakistan, which joined the U.N. Security Council in January for a one-year term, would support a new resolution on Iraq, Mr. Kasuri said his government will wait and see U.S. intelligence data on Iraq's weapons program that is expected to be presented next week to the council.

Regarding long-term efforts to defeat terrorism, Mr. Kasuri said two key problems to be resolved are the disputed region of Kashmir and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"They will never be resolved entirely but there is need for the U.S. to focus attention on them. … There is too much concentration on short-term policing," he said.

Rather than treating the symptoms, the United States needs a long-term strategy that would have the effect of an "antibiotic treatment" to deal with al Qaeda and its terrorist offshoots, he said.

Asked whether al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is hiding somewhere in Pakistan, Mr. Kasuri said: "My own feeling is he's dead."

With a $25 million bounty on bin Laden, "I think if anybody got wind of it, he would like to make that money," he said.

Mr. Kasuri said Pakistan's military and security forces have been successful in arresting up to 490 suspected terrorists, including the Islamists who killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

"As for the fact that some of them may be hiding in some Pakistani cities: They'll be hiding in American cities, they'll be hiding in German cities, they'll be hiding in British cities," he said.

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