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Pakistan demands response on bin Laden surrender as protests erupt

Police in Karachi fire tear gas to disperse protesters

(swissinfo.ch)

As tens of thousands of anti-American protesters took to the streets across Pakistan on Friday, the country's government demanded a response from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on whether it will deliver Osama bin Laden, Washington's prime suspect in the attacks of September 11.

"We hope the Taliban leadership will take a firm decision that satisfies the demands of the international community," said Raiz Mohammad Khan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

The Taliban on Thursday asked bin Laden to leave the country "whenever possible", following an ultimatum by the United States President, George W Bush, although it said it could not force him to leave.

"We cannot force him to leave Afghanistan," the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-US and anti-government protests broke out across Pakistan, with demonstrators setting fire to shops and stoning cars in protest over a decision by the Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, to support the US "war against terrorism."

Some 10,000 protestors gathered in the border town of Peshawar, home to least two million Afghan refugees, shouting: "We will fight until the destruction of the USA," and "Long-live Osama." They also burned effigies of President Bush.

In Karachi, the country's commercial hub, police fired tear gas and arrested at least 70 protestors, as armoured personnel carriers, police vans and paramilitary rangers protected the US consulate.

A poll by Gallup Pakistan showed that 62 per cent of those questioned were opposed to the government's decision to back Washington. Islamic groups in Pakistan have also called for nationwide strikes.

Bush vows retaliation with "every weapon of war"

During Thursday's presidential address, Bush vowed to use "every necessary weapon of war" to retaliate for the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and warned governments that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

Bush said it was not just an attack on the United States, but that it was "the world's fight. " People from 80 countries were killed in the attacks, he said.

"We will direct every resource at our command - every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence and every necessary weapon of war - to the disruption and defeat of the global terror network," Bush said.

Many US allies have renewed their pledge to do what they can to help it win the war against terrorism, including the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who visited New York and Washington this week. "This is a struggle that concerns us all, the whole of the democratic and civilised free world," Blair said, pledging British support and solidarity.

Nato Secretary-General, George Robertson, also welcomed Bush's address. "The international community knows that bin Laden and his network have been behind some of the worst attacks," he said during an interview on German television.

Washington has also reportedly said it would reschedule $600 million in Pakistani debt on September 24.

Death toll rises¶

The toll of those missing from last week's attack on the World Trade Center rose to 6,333 on Thursday, with 241 people confirmed dead.

City officials said there is little hope of pulling anyone alive from the 1.2 million tonnes of twisted steel and smoking rubble. No one has been found alive since September 12, the day after the attack.

The attack on the Pentagon left 188 people dead or missing, including 64 on board the hijacked jetliners. Forty-four people are confirmed dead from the crash of a fourth hijacked plane in Pennsylvania.

swissinfo with agencies

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