WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush lifted sanctions Saturday against India and Pakistan that were imposed after the two nations tested nuclear weapons in 1998.
The move came as a U.S. military delegation headed to Pakistan this weekend for consultations on U.S. preparations for a military strike against Afghanistan.
The Bush administration lifted separate sets of sanctions imposed in 1978, 1990 and 1998 _ all related to development of nuclear weapons. The move does not apply to sanctions imposed on Pakistan in 1999 after its military took over the democratically elected government.
Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, praised the move, saying it ``will enable Pakistan to get economic aid and it's a very important development.''
Despite anti-American sentiment in the country, Pakistan agreed last week to share military intelligence with the United States, permit its airspace to be used by American military aircraft and to provide U.S. access to military facilities.
These commitments would enable the United States to use Pakistan in any assault on bin Laden, who operates his terrorism network from Afghanistan.
The delegation, drawn from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other Pentagon offices, will meet early in the week with their Pakistani military counterparts, a senior Bush administration official said Saturday.
Initially, Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was to head the delegation to Islamabad, but cooperation on the diplomatic front already has been worked out, the official told The Associated Pesss on condition of anonymity.
But the details of what appears to be a pending operation need to be worked out.
Pakistan's association with the United States has given President Bush's campaign against terrorism a lift and improved U.S. relations with the South Asian country.
The Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, has given his backing to the United States in its drive against suspected terrorism plotter Osama bin Laden despite strong anti-U.S. sentiment in his country.
U.S. officials said Saturday they were pleased with cooperation from Saudi Arabia and Turkey as American military forces moved to position themselves for a military strike against Afghanistan.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Wald, commander of U.S. Central Command's air component, has shifted operations to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, where he could plan and direct air attacks against Afghanistan and other possible targets in the region.
The United States has ``a command and control center with Saudi Arabia. It's up and running and it's operational,'' a senior U.S. official said Saturday.
Having Saudi Arabia in the U.S. camp is useful also in countering sentiment in the Arab world against President Bush's campaign to uproot the terrorism network of Osama bin Laden and oppose the Saudi exile's supporters.
``Saudi military cooperation with our international effort has been excellent and we are satisfied with the Saudis in this cooperation,'' said Frederick Jones, a state department spokesman.
As the campaign proceeds, the United States will look to the Saudis and other countries for additional help on a wide range of fronts. Those include diplomacy, finances and law enforcement.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, consulted with Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell last week, and U.S. officials said the kingdom was cooperating with U.S. requests. The administration is ``pleased with the level of their support,'' one official said Saturday.
The minister registered his country's condemnation of the attacks and pledged Saudi backing in the campaign against terrorism.
While al-Faisal was in Washington, however, a senior Saudi official cautioned in Riyadh that the kingdom and other Arab countries did not want to be thrust into a conflict. Any aid provided by Arab and smaller Persian Gulf states must be preceded by a clear and specific declaration of which countries and groups will be targeted, the foreign ministry official said.
Turkey, meanwhile, has agreed to allow Air Force transport aircraft to use its airspace and airports for a possible retaliation to the Sept. 11 attacks, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said in a letter to Bush.
Turkey is also willing to share intelligence on Afghanistan with the United States. The Taliban rulers are thought to be harboring bin Laden.
``We appreciate all the support we are enjoying in the region and around the world,'' Pentagon spokesman Bryan G. Whitman said Saturday.
More than 50 U.S. and British jets are based at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey.
On another important front, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his top advisers in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi and talked to Bush on the telephone.
``We have always been initiators of the effort to unite the forces of the international community in the battle with terror. If we want to win there is no other way,'' Putin said in comments shown on television. ``We must unite forces of all civilized society.''
Also Saturday, the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic relations with the Taliban for the leaders' refusals to surrender bin Laden. The move leaves only two countries that recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's government _ Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Richard Boucher, the state department spokesman, welcomed the move as ``further evidence the international community of nations speaks with one voice on this issue.''
Boucher said he hoped the action by the Persian Gulf emirate would lead the Taliban to turn over bin Laden immediately to ``appropriate authorities.''
Saudi Arabia also was said to be discussing whether to sever ties with the Taliban.