Pakistan Will Abstain From U.N. Vote

Pakistan will abstain from voting in the U.N. Security Council on a U.S.-backed resolution approving war with Iraq, a spokesman for the ruling party said Tuesday.

Pakistan, a key Muslim ally in the U.S. war on terror, holds one of 15 seats at the council. Washington must get the backing of at least nine countries for the resolution's approval.

"Pakistan will abstain from the voting" at the U.N. Security Council, said Azeem Chaudhry, a spokesman for the Quaid-e-Azam faction of Pakistan Muslim League. "We will not be giving our opinion" in the council, he said.

Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali said Monday that Pakistan would not support a war against Iraq. Chaudhry explained that the prime minister was referring to an abstention at the United Nations vote, not an outright 'no.'

"When he (Jamali) said Pakistan will not back war on Iraq that means we will abstain," Chaudhry said. "We want a peaceful resolution of the issue."

Jamali is to address the nation by television and radio in a speech on Tuesday, Chaudhry said.

On Monday, before a raucous session of the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, Jamali said Pakistan would not back the war.

"We will do what is best for our country," Jamali said Monday. "It is not best for my country to support war against Iraq."

Anti-U.S. Islamic hard-liners have drawn hundreds of thousands of people in demonstrations against a possible U.S. war on Iraq in recent weeks and have called on the government to use its vote against America.

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, but its citizens are overwhelmingly opposed to a U.S. attack on Iraq.