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Pakistan: Musharraf Advises U.S. To 'Take Out' Taliban Leader

Washington, 15 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Pakistan's ruler is quoted today as advising that the United States should "take out" (eliminate) Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in Afghanistan before turning its attention to suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden. "USA Today" and CBS radio quote General Pervez Musharraf as saying: "get Mullah Omar and Osama won't be able to operate. He'll be on the run."

The comments come ahead of a visit to Pakistan today by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell is expected to arrive in Islamabad later this evening, but the timing of his meetings are being kept secret for security reasons.

Pakistan is the only country that maintains diplomatic links with the Taliban. Correspondents say Musharraf has been walking a delicate line between support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism and opposition at home to attacks on a fellow Muslim neighbor.

Powell is traveling to South Asia today in an attempt to ease tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed province of Kashmir, as well as to discuss options for a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the official news agency of the United Arab Emirates reports that Taliban Foreign Minister Maulawi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil arrived in Pakistan yesterday.

Pakistan's government is urging Washington to halt attacks on the Taliban front lines to prevent the opposition Northern Alliance from storming into Kabul and setting up a de facto government. Islamabad, which backed the Taliban before joining the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition, says all ethnic groups in Afghanistan should be represented in a post-Taliban government.