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U.S. envoys raises issue of Saeed's extradition with Musharraf

Updated:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ In a meeting Tuesday with President Pervez Musharraf, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan raised the question of extraditing suspects in the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin ``thanked the president for the ongoing police cooperation in the Pearl case and encouraged further movement in the case,'' said Mark Wentworth, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Asked if Chamberlin and Musharraf discussed the issue of extradition during their meeting, Wentworth replied: ``She raised the subject with him but I don't have anything further.''

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Islamic militant who police believe masterminded Pearl's Jan. 23 kidnapping, was already in police custody by the time U.S. and Pakistani authorities revealed the contents of a videotape Friday that confirmed Pearl's death at the hands of extremists.

U.S. officials say they had requested Saeed's extradition to the United States even before his name came up in connection with Pearl's murder. The U.S. Justice Department secretly indicted him in the 1994 kidnapping of four Westerners in India, including an American.

On Tuesday, Saeed was taken to the city court building in the southern port city of Karachi where a witness in the Pearl case was asked to identify him, said Manzoor Mughal, a senior investigator. During the closed-door proceeding in a judge's chamber, Saeed was not able to see the witness, whose identify has not been revealed, Mughal said.

Saeed arrived at the court in a convoy of about eight vehicles with dozens of policemen toting AK-47 assault rifles. It was not immediately known if the witness made a positive identification.

Extraditing Saeed to the United States could be complicated. There is no extradition treaty between Washington and Pakistan. However, Pakistan has extradited suspects before, and U.S. officials are making it clear they would like to try Saeed in America.

When asked whether the United States hopes to extradite Saeed, President Bush said Monday: ``Yes, we're always interested in dealing with people who have harmed American citizens.''

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer put it more bluntly, saying the United States ``would very much like to get its hands on'' Saeed and made clear to Pakistan ``that the United States would be interested in having the sheikh sent here.''

Saeed is among about a dozen suspects in the abduction and murder of the 38-year-old journalist, whose body has not been found. Pakistani authorities say they are still searching for four suspects they believe were key figures in the crime.

Chamberlin, the senior U.S. official in Pakistan, said Monday that the U.S. government wanted Saeed extradited from Pakistan at least two months before he was implicated in Pearl's killing.

Musharraf may face some pressure to try Saeed in Pakistan to show that the country's judicial system can function and to fend off nationalist criticism about sending a Pakistani for trial in a foreign country. Many Pakistanis believe Pearl's murder may have been revenge for Musharraf's decision to side with the United States in the war in neighboring Afghanistan, reversing Pakistan's long-standing support for that country's now ousted Taliban regime.

Musharraf has pledged to rid Pakistan of Islamic extremism, but a decades-old alliance between Islamic militants and Pakistani intelligence agencies could hinder Musharraf's plan.

Yet U.S. officials have praised Pakistan's cooperation in the Pearl case.

Bush told reporters Monday that Musharraf assured him in a phone call last week that Pakistan would ``chase down the killers and bring them to justice.''

``I could tell from the tone of his voice how distraught he was, how disturbed he was, that this barbaric act had taken place in his country,'' Bush said.

A Pakistani judge on Monday gave prosecutors two more weeks to build their case against Saeed and two alleged accomplices implicated in the Pearl murder. During that time, police will continue to search for Pearl's body as well as the murder weapon seen on a gruesome video recording of Pearl's decapitation.

Saeed stunned a courtroom on Feb. 14 when he confessed to the kidnapping and announced that as far as he knew, Pearl was dead. But court officials say that would not be enough to convict because it was not made under oath.

The main target of a nationwide police manhunt is Amjad Faruqi, who police believe carried out the kidnapping. If police hope to recover Pearl's body, one investigator said Monday, they must first find Faruqi.

Saeed, 28, a first-generation Briton, was arrested in India in 1994 in connection with the kidnapping of four Western backpackers, but was freed as part of a prisoner-hostage swap after gunmen hijacked an Indian Airlines jet to Kandahar, Afghanistan in 1999.

Before his abduction, Pearl had been investigating alleged links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December for allegedly trying to detonate explosives in his sneakers during a Paris-Miami flight.
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