Pakistani official not ready to turn over suspect in slaying

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- After meeting with Pakistan's president, the U.S. ambassador said Tuesday she is "not disappointed" with his response to American requests to hand over the key suspect in the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

But Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin said no decision has been made about whether Pakistan will deliver Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

The Bush administration said it wants to get its hands on the suspect, who already has been indicted in the United States in an earlier kidnapping.

Pakistan wants to hold on to Saeed for now -- hoping he can help locate Pearl's body and identify his killers, an Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity. Thus far, Saeed has not been known to provide any help.

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said it was made clear to President Pervez Musharraf during his meeting with Chamberlin that Washington wants Saeed sent to the United States, but he acknowledged Pakistan's rights in the case.

"A crime, a murder was committed in their country, and they have their own ways and laws of dealing with it. It's not atypical at a time like that, when another nation makes a request, for that request to be considered, and it takes time," Fleischer said.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Chamberlin said she had spoken several times with Musharraf in the past few months about the Saeed.

Except to say she was "not disappointed," she declined to give details of her talks with Musharraf.

Search continues

A State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said Musharraf telephoned Secretary of State Colin Powell after seeing Chamberlin. "We want to see him in U.S. custody for the crimes he has committed against Americans," Boucher said of Saeed.

Pakistani officials are still searching for at least four key suspects and Pearl's body has not been found. How, when and where Pearl was killed are unknown.

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