Pakistan powerless to stop US attack on Iran: Musharraf
* Pakistan going ahead with Iran pipeline
* Cartoons issue uniting moderate and radical Muslims
* Uniform no threat to democracy
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is opposed to a US attack on Iran over its nuclear programme, but has little power to stop it, President General Pervez Musharraf said on Monday.
“We are against any aggression against Iran. However, if the United States attacks, I don’t know how we could interfere,” Gen Musharraf told a group of American and Asian journalists at the army chief’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.
He said he stood by plans for a pipeline that would bring gas from Iran to Pakistan and onto India, saying Pakistan’s growing economy demanded it. US officials have said Washington opposes the pipeline.
“Pakistan wants gas. Iran wants to sell it. What is the problem?” Musharraf said. “We need the gas. If anybody is against it, they should provide us financial assistance.”
Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are uniting moderate and radical Muslims in protests, he said. The newspapers that have printed the caricatures were “being totally oblivious to the consequences for the world, for world peace and harmony”.
Musharraf said the newspapers’ argument that they are exercising their right to press freedom was “pathetic” and “ridiculous”.
“I don’t see how any civilised person can take the issue of freedom of press to hurt the feelings of such a large population of the world,” he said. “I think this is taking freedom of press to its limit.”
Musharraf said all Muslims were united in opposing the cartoons. “The most moderate Muslim will go to the street and talk against it because this hurts the sentiments of every Muslim,” he said. “Whether an extremist or a moderate or an ultra-moderate, we will condemn it.”
He said that cooperation with America in the war on terror was “excellent” despite a US missile strike that killed 13 civilians in a border village last month.
He said Pakistan’s sovereignty had been violated by the January 13 missile attack - reportedly by a US Predator drone targeting Al Qaeda No 2 Ayman al-Zawahri - on Bajur Agency. He expressed regret that 13 civilians died in the attack, but said that the locals were “guilty of harbouring people who are carrying out terrorism in Pakistan and outside in the world”.
Despite the apparent lack of communication over the attack, Musharraf praised US-Pakistani cooperation in the war on terror. “We have excellent understanding and coordination with the United States forces in Afghanistan,” he said.
Musharraf said one of his top priorities was expanding economic ties with the United States. “We are looking for more trade and not aid,” he said, “because trade means job creation, more investment, more taxes, reductions in poverty and increases in exports.”
Musharraf said that as the only superpower, the United States had to help resolve the six-decade dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.
“This can be resolved now, and the United States must contribute,” Musharraf said. “President Bush is coming here. I hope he understands the reality.”
Bush is due to visit India and Pakistan next month, his first trip to the subcontinent and the first by a US president since Musharraf threw Pakistan’s support behind the US-led war on terror after the September 11 attacks.
“I believe now, at this moment, Kashmir is ripe for a resolution,” he said. “The people of Kashmir, on both sides of the border - the Line of Control - are for peace.”
Musharraf said both sides now wanted peace and the United States could mediate and facilitate the resolution process.
“It is their responsibility to resolve disputes all over the world,” Musharraf said. “They have to resolve all political disputes which all concern Muslims, unfortunately, at the moment.”
The presidents said his staying on as army chief posed no threat to democracy in Pakistan. “My uniform is no threat to democracy. I am major advocate of the democratic cause. The present parliament will complete its term for the first time.” ap/online