As part of the U.S. diplomatic offensive against Afghanistan, President Bush on Saturday lifted sanctions against India and Pakistan related to their nuclear-weapons programs.
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, and Reuters said Sunday that 508 sanctions remain in place against Pakistan.
Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, said Bush's action "will enable Pakistan to get economic aid, and it's a very important development."
A U.S. military delegation headed to Pakistan this weekend to lay the groundwork for a military strike against Afghanistan.
Despite anti-American sentiment in the country, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf 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.
Those concessions would be key in any assault on terrorist Usama 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.
Pakistani officials had hoped their cooperation with Washington would bring economic benefits. The poverty-stricken nation of 140 million people is struggling to turn around its anemic economy and relieve the burden of more than $37 billion in foreign debt.
India also welcomed the U.S. decision.
"With the removal of sanctions, we can strengthen a broad-base, forward-looking and mutually beneficial relationship with the U.S.," said a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, Nirupama Rao.
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.
During the Cold War, Pakistan was a staunch U.S. ally, while India maintained close ties to the Soviet Union. The region's alliances have been shifting in recent years, with India-U.S. ties strengthening and Pakistan-U.S. ties faltering.
But the lifting of sanctions did not remove the frightening specter of a nuclear power destabilized by interal strife and opposition to a U.S. presence.
"Lifting of sanctions will not dampen the anti-American sentiment here," Ameerul Azeem, a spokesman for Pakistan's right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami, or Islamic Party, said. "Our protests against Pakistan's cooperation with America will continue."
U.S. Forms Scythe of Alliances Around Afghanistan
The U.S. was pleased with cooperation from critical nations near Afghanistan as American military forces moved to position themselves for a military strike.
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.
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 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," state department spokesman Frederick Jones said.
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, and 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report