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Fri, Nov 09, 2001 - Page 5 News List

Musharraf calls for quick end to bombing campaign

REUTERS AND AP , PARIS AND KARACHI, PAKISTAN

The US-led military attacks on Afghanistan should be stopped as soon as possible because the whole world sees them as a war against innocent civilians, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said yesterday.

He said he would ask US President George W. Bush to suspend the bombing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts in mid-November.

Continuing the campaign during Ramadan would cause trouble throughout the Muslim world, he said.

"It is being perceived in the whole world ... as if this were a war against the poor, miserable and innocent people of Afghanistan," Musharraf told a news conference.

Musharraf was due to travel to London for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday and from there to the US to meet Bush on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.

Musharraf is a key ally in Washington's war on terrorism, which Bush has waged to hunt down Afghan-based militant Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11 hijacked airliner attacks on New York and Washington.

Since throwing his support behind the US military campaign, Musharraf has faced ongoing demonstrations by Islamic groups sympathetic to the ruling Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistani police were preparing yesterday to clampdown on radical groups ahead of a countrywide protest strike by Islamic parties opposed to US airstrikes against Afghanistan.

Police said lists of hundreds of Islamic radicals had been drawn up for possible arrest ahead of planned demonstrations after prayers today to condemn the US-led action against the Taliban militia and Pakistan's cooperation with the US campaign.

Police and Islamic party sources said this week's demonstrations could be the biggest test so far for Musharraf's government.

Truck loads of heavily armed troops were stationed at busy intersections and key buildings in the southwestern city of Quetta, where police said a rally of up to 15,000 people was expected today.

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