- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) — U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has informed Pakistan the requirement for some foreign nations to register while in the United States was irreversible.

He told visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri Wednesday that no country placed on the registration list would be removed as the U.S. government was planning to expand the list.

At present, there are 25 mainly Muslim countries on the list, which was issued on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. Pakistan was added to the list Dec. 18 and has the highest number of nationals who are affected by the registration.

Pakistan says the registration could "lead to a large scale deportation of Pakistanis and will have a devastating effect" on his government and Pakistan-U.S. relations. Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

Ashcroft said though he shared Pakistan's concerns, registration was an irreversible process and would eventually encompass all countries of the world whose nationals required visas to enter the United States.

Kasuri also asked that the deadline for registration of Pakistani nationals be extended and Ashcroft said the government would consider the request. He said the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service would provide maximum relief to those Pakistanis whose cases were pending for conclusion and such individuals would not be subjected to detention and deportation, if there were no blemishes in their record.

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