Islamabad decides to abstain
Our Islamabad Correspondent |From Shahid Hussain | 14-03-2003
Pakistan yesterday instructed its ambassador to the UN to abstain from a Security Council vote on any resolution meant to authorise war against Iraq, officials said amid persistent reports that Pakistani officials fear repercussions from the U.S. if they do not back its push for war, while weighing loyalty to other Muslim states and intense popular pressure to oppose war.
"Instructions have gone out to our permanent ambassador to the UN to abstain from voting on any resolution seeking a green signal for war," a senior government official told Gulf News as Pakistan faced intense pulls and pressures from conflicting world powers like the U.S. and France.
U.S. President George W. Bush called President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday in an effort to win international support, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in Washington. "There's no question that the president will be disappointed in those nations that vote otherwise," Fleischer said.
Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali yesterday urged the international community to allow more time for a peaceful solution to end the Iraq crisis and avoid war. He told foreign journalists "I have not changed my stand, and it will be very difficult for Pakistan to support war against Iraq."
"We want a peace mission to go ahead. Peace should be given a chance, a fair chance - this is what Pakistan believes in," he said.
Earlier, he said in an address to the nation on Tuesday that it would be "very difficult" for Pakistan to support a war against Iraq. He had however left unclear whether Pakistan, one of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, would vote against a war-seeking resolution or prefer to abstention the voting.
Jamali's military-backed government fears war would give Islamists ammunition to stir up unrest, but at the same time wants to maintain the economically beneficial relationship it has developed with the United States as a helpful contributor to Washington's "war on terror".
"The fall out will affect Pakistan definitely," Jamali said. He reiterated it would be difficult for Pakistan to support war and hoped the countries calling for war would not pressure Islamabad.
Jamali said President Musha-rraf had received phone calls from President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other world leaders on Iraq yesterday.
"There is no pressure as far as we are concerned. We and the United States are friends and we have remained so...We do not expect any undue pressure from anybody," he added.
Islamabad has reportedly sent instructions to its UN ambassador Munir Akram to abstain as a showdown between pro and anti-war camps looms in the deeply divided Security Council.
United State is eager for a vote on the resolution which has been tabled by it, jointly with UK and Spain. The resolution sets a deadline for Iraq to disarm or face military action.
France and Russia, two of the five permanent members of the Security Council, have warned they will use their veto power to block passage of a resolution that would allow war.
Meanwhile, a foreign ministry statement here said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin had a 35-minute phone conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri overnight.
The foreign ministers reiterated that the Iraq problem should be resolved peacefully in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, the statement said. "They agreed on the need to take steps to create unity and reduce differences in the international community on the problem of Iraq in the interest of multilateralism, international law and world peace," it said.
Kasuri reiterated Jamali's call for more time.
"In view of UN chief (weapons) inspector Hans Blix's latest report, in which he has admitted that Iraq was implementing destruction of its long-range missiles, the process should be given more time," Kasuri was quoted as saying by the Dawn daily.
However he said it was premature to announce an abstention before a new resolution is finalised. "We are unaware as yet of the total contents of a fresh resolution moved in the Security Council," the minister said.
Public opinion in Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, is strongly opposed to war against Iraq. It is a widely held perception here that grab for Iraqi oil lies at the heart of U.S. designs. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal and Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham also called up Kasuri and held "lengthy" discussion with him, officials said. It was agreed during the talks that the Iraq crisis should be resolved through peaceful means.
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