- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) — President George W. Bush announced Friday that the United States is waiving sanctions imposed on Pakistan for toppling an elected government in October 1999, paving the way for the country to receive about $250 million in economic aid already approved by Congress.

The sanctions were imposed after the 1999 coup which brought Gen. Pervez Musharraf to power.

The waiver comes amid growing speculation about how Pakistan would vote in the U.N. Security Council on the issue of Iraq. Pakistan is one of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council and is among the so-called "neutral six" who have not yet officially decided how to vote.

In a memorandum to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Bush said a waiver "would facilitate the transition to democratic rule in Pakistan; and is important to U.S. efforts to respond to, deter or prevent acts of international terrorism."

"I hereby waive, with respect to Pakistan, section 508 of Division E of Public Law 108-7. You are authorized and directed to transmit this determination to the Congress and to arrange for its publication in the Federal Register," the memorandum said.

Section 508 of the 1999 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act forbids U.S. assistance to a country "whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military or decree."

Gen. Musharraf, chief of the Pakistani army, came to power in October 1999 after toppling former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Since becoming president, he has also retained his position in the army despite protest from Pakistani opposition groups.

The waiver appeared to further confirm Gen. Musharraf's importance as a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. Initially, the United States was unwilling to deal with a general who came to power by toppling an elected government but the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed his status.

The United States also had imposed another set of sanctions on Pakistan after the tit-for-tat nuclear explosions by India and Pakistan in May 1998.

But in response to Pakistan's support of the war on terror, the Bush administration has allowed some of the nuclear sanctions to lapse quietly while others were waived. These include sanctions involving weapons sales, government credits and finance, and some aid programs.

Friday's announcement paves the way for the United States to resume the assistance if the president determines that a democratically elected government has been restored. Bush can also issue a waiver if he determines that it was in U.S. interest to do so.

At a recent briefing a State Department official described the nuclear sanctions as counterproductive, saying they failed to force India and Pakistan to change their nuclear policies. Both the countries have continued to further develop their nuclear programs and are also improving their weapon-delivery systems.

"We need to stay engaged with the two countries in order to promote nuclear non-proliferation as sanctions have not been very effective in achieving this goal," the official said.

The White House also announced on Friday that President Bush would meet Pakistan's Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, at the White House March 28.

High on the agenda for the meeting will be the war on terror, along with regional and international issues.

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