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Pak, Saudi rule out troops for Iraq

Islamabad, Oct. 19 (Reuters): Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two key allies in the US-led war on terror, today ruled out sending troops to Iraq without the consent of the Iraqi people.

Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Iraqis had shown no desire to have foreign peacekeepers in their country. “This express opinion from the Iraqi people has not been shown to us,” he said at a joint news conference with Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri in Islamabad.

“Up till that time at least for Saudi Arabia, we will not send any troops.”

Kasuri said Pakistan would also wait for an invitation from Iraq before making any decision on contributing troops to a multinational peacekeeping force authorised by a unanimously passed UN resolution on Thursday. “If the people of Iraq ask for help, Pakistan as a brotherly country will do what it can,” he said. “But we will wait for that to happen and when that happens, I am sure the public opinion in Pakistan will also change.”

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has faced strong opposition from the hardline Islamic groups since he threw his weight behind the US-led war on terror in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

Analysts say any move to send troops to Iraq would further complicate problems for the military ruler at home. Pakistan voted in favour of the UN resolution but refused to contribute its troops.

The two foreign ministers made the comments on the second day of the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. Pakistani officials said the leaders also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s troubled ties with India.

Speaking at a reception hours before his departure, Prince Abdullah launched a veiled attack on Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network, saying it had distorted the world’s image of Muslims.

“A handful of terrorist criminals have spoiled our relations with others...we need to combat this tiny group.” “The natural abode of a Muslim is not in dark caves or terrorist hideouts,” he said without naming bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in the mountainous region on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Two US soldiers killed

Two US soldiers were killed when their patrol was attacked near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, and a US convoy came under fire in the flashpoint town of Falluja, the US military and witnesses said today.

Major Josslyn Aberle said a US patrol was attacked yesterday with small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire near Kirkuk, killing two 4th Infantry Division soldiers and wounding another. In Falluja, gunmen fired on a US military convoy today, setting a truck carrying ammunition ablaze, sparking a series of explosions.

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