- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Pakistani delegation in Washington on Monday that the United States is coordinating its Iraq policy with its allies in the Middle East.

The Pakistani delegation, which was headed by Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, visited Rumsfeld at the Pentagon for talks on defense cooperation.

While discussing Iraq, Rumsfeld assured the Pakistani team that Washington understands the complications its Muslim allies face on the Iraq issue, diplomatic sources told United Press International.

The secretary of defense said the Bush administration has been holding discussions on ways to proceed to prevent any backlash in Middle East countries that have been concerned that their own populations will not approve of war with Iraq.

Rumsfeld told the Pakistanis that President George W. Bush will devote a large portion of his State of the Union speech to Iraq, explaining why the United States believes it is necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein, the sources said.

These sources also said the Bush administration was consulting senior Middle East experts, some from the previous administrations, to review its Iraq policy.

The two sides discussed America's military assistance to Pakistan "and the secretary of defense assured us that Washington will fulfill the promises it has made in return for Islamabad's cooperation in the war against terrorism," said Pakistan's deputy chief of mission, Mohammed Sadiq.

"Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror also came up for discussion, and both sides expressed satisfaction with the global efforts to fight terrorism," he added.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Pakistan dumped its former Taliban allies and provided military bases to the United States to fight the Taliban and al Qaida forces in Afghanistan.

Washington believes that a large number of Taliban and al Qaida fugitives fled to Pakistan's bordering areas after the Taliban's defeat and is reportedly working with Pakistani intelligence agencies to catch them.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, undersecretaries Douglas Feith and Dov Zeikham, and other senior officials also participated in the meeting.

The Pakistani delegation included the foreign minister, the Pakistani ambassador, Jehangir Ashraf Qazi, and other senior officials of the Pakistani Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

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