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Pakistan Joins Saudi-Led Antiterrorism Coalition

Pakistan confirmed that it has joined a Saudi-led "Islamic military alliance" of 34 countries fighting terrorism in the Muslim world.

"Yes, we're part of it," Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah told reporters in Islamabad December 17.

He denied reports that Pakistan was "surprised" when its membership in the group was announced December 15, insisting Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry had only needed to "ascertain details" about the announcement.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been exchanging ideas on how to deal with terrorism, Khalilullah said.

The new coalition does not include the Shi'ite-led countries of Iran, Iraq, and Syria, raising questions about whether it can be a unified Muslim front against extremists.

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi'ite movement in Lebanon, questioned the legitimacy of the coalition on December 17, calling it "suspicious." Hezbollah suggested the coalition was formed to as an alternative to sending U.S. ground troops to the region.

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam welcomed the Saudi coalition on December 16.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

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