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Bush Vows $900 Million for Pakistan

Aid: Funds will help pay for lost trade, cost of refugees as regime faces growing dissent and economic hardship stemming from U.S. actions in Afghanistan.


UNITED NATIONS — In their first meeting, President Bush promised Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf a massive new aid package of about $900 million Saturday to help bolster his nation's military regime as it faces growing public dissent and economic hardships because of the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.

Bush said that Pakistan had come to America's assistance in its "hour of need" after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Musharraf has "shown even greater courage and vision and leadership in the weeks since," Bush said at a joint news conference held in the middle of their evening talks.

The funds, which will total more than $1 billion with other funds already in the pipeline, are a reward for Pakistan's support for the new war against terrorism. The United States will also back debt relief in the hundreds of millions to help alleviate Pakistan's $38-billion foreign debt, U.S. officials said.

"Pakistan's efforts against terror are benefiting the entire world and linking Pakistan more closely with the world. The United States wants to build these linkages," Bush said.

Economic assistance is critical for Pakistan, which claims the war in Afghanistan will cost it at least $2.5 billion in lost trade, commerce and tourism and from the cost of dealing with hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.

The financial package for Pakistan will cover poverty alleviation, humanitarian aid for refugees, border security and anti-terrorism efforts as well as support for development aid coordinated with U.S. agencies, the International Monetary Fund and the group of more than a dozen industrialized nations known as the Paris Club.

Bush also indicated that the United States might play a more active role in resolving the status of disputed Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim territory now mostly controlled by Hindu-dominated India. The issue has been the most volatile source of tension between Pakistan and India.

Delivery of F-16s Not an Option

"My country will do what we can to bring the parties together, to have good, meaningful discussions on the subject so that we can come up with a solution," Bush said.

But the Bush administration will not accede to Pakistan's request for delivery of 28 F-16s paid for in the 1980s but never delivered because the country developed nuclear weapons. "It's not even under consideration," a senior administration official said Saturday.

Musharraf heralded the aid announcement as the dawn of a new relationship and said he was pleased that the United States will help in the maximum possible way to deal with the fallout of the conflict.

The Pakistani leader said he hoped that the new U.S. involvement signaled "a very sustainable and long-standing, futuristic relationship."

Just hours earlier, Musharraf, in a pointed but unspoken rebuke to the United States, had appealed that Pakistan not be abandoned as it was after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"The people of Pakistan still suffer from the sense of abandonment after the Soviet withdrawal. Pakistan hopes the mistakes of the past will not be forgotten," he said in his debut at the U.N. General Assembly.

In terms of war strategy, Bush and Musharraf also revealed at their news conference that they had developed a common view that, to avoid reprisals and atrocities, the opposition Northern Alliance should not be allowed to occupy Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The United States believes that it can accomplish its objectives without the opposition movement's conquering the capital. The alliance is made up of ethnic minorities, while Kabul has been a melting pot of the dominant ethnic Pushtuns and minorities.

"We will encourage our friends to head south, across the Shomali plains, but not into the city of Kabul itself," Bush said.

Musharraf warned that allowing the Northern Alliance entry into the capital would produce the same kind of "atrocities, killings and mayhem" that destroyed half the city when various factions in the Northern Alliance fought among themselves after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

In the background of the U.N. opening session, the United States, Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan's five other neighbors have begun scrambling to try to find a political formula for post-Taliban rule. On Saturday, the eight countries held the first of two meetings over three days to deal with what has become a critical issue now that the opposition has begun conquering Taliban-controlled territory.

In a brief statement afterward issued on behalf of this so-called Six-Plus-Two group, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi confirmed that Afghan opposition forces had seized control of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. He said the group "welcomed" reports that the opposition had declared a general amnesty there and urged them to allow international aid workers back into the area.

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