Pakistan has asked the United States for time to consider a list of demands that includes cooperation in a possible strike against Afghanistan for harboring suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, a top Pakistani official said Friday.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell identified bin Laden as a key suspect in this week's terror attacks in New York and Washington, and said Pakistan had promised cooperation.
A senior Bush administration official said that Washington had urged Pakistan to close its border with Afghanistan and to cut off funding for terrorist groups. Pakistan supports the Taliban and is knowledgeable of bin Laden's operations.
According to the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Thursday, the U.S. also asked Pakistan for permission to fly over its territory in the event of military action.
Officials in Pakistan would not disclose details of the U.S. demands.
Pakistan's intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, who heads talks in Washington, told U.S. officials that his country needed time to consider the demands, said the senior Pakistani official, who asked not to be named.
He said that Mehmood had said that the demands ``center around a possible U.S. strike on Afghanistan and how Pakistan would be expected to cooperate.''
He said that the United States was discussing a comprehensive strike to wipe out a whole network of terror operating from secret bases in Afghanistan.
Since Tuesday's attacks, there has been speculation about a retaliatory strike against Afghanistan. The United Nations and many international aid organizations have withdrawn their foreign workers, fearing an attack.
If the United States pushes Pakistan for cooperation in a concrete action against the Taliban, Musharraf will face a stark choice.
Cooperating with the United States in an attack on Afghanistan could cause a backlash from militant Muslim groups in Pakistan, one of three countries that recognizes the Taliban government. The others are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Taliban are supported by militant Islamic groups in Pakistan. Followers of the Pakistani groups are well-armed and strongly anti-American.
``If the government allows Pakistan to be used for attacks on Afghanistan it would be a great a treachery,'' said Maulana Samiul Haq, the leader of the Afghan Defense Council, an umbrella group of Pakistan's religious political parties and Islamic militant groups. He said the group would urge street protests.
However, Pakistan could benefit from helping Washington. It suffers economic sanctions imposed by the United States and much of the Western world because of its 1998 nuclear tests.
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency has been involved in Afghanistan since the 1970s, and is believed to have been a key backer of the Taliban, which took control of most of Afghanistan in 1996.
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