Pakistan extends air support to US
Friday, 19 October, 2001, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK BBC News
Pakistan insists the bases are only for logistical use
Pakistani officials have confirmed that the United States has been given permission to use another of the country's air bases.
Last week Pakistan revealed it had let the US use two of its airports for logistical support during the current military operation in Afghanistan.
Official sources told the BBC that airbases in the provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh would be used by American forces as recovery facilities during military strikes.
The third base is a small air strip in the town of Dalbandin, close to the Afghan border.
A small contingent of US forces is already based at the first two airports.
The airbase in Jacobabad in Sindh is rarely used by the Pakistani airforce, and the commercial airport in Pasni in Baluchistan province is a facility for small and medium-sized aircraft.
A senior Pakistani official said US forces have been allowed to use these facilities as part of the government's commitment to Washington to provide logistic support during the military operation.
Pakistani officials have said in public that under no circumstances will Pakistan's ground facilities be used for launching any air or ground attack inside Afghanistan.
Protesters in Pakistan are angered by cooperation with the US
Last Tuesday President Pervez Musharraf repeated his wish that the American military campaign should be short and focused on military targets.
But after talks with visiting US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the president reassured the Americans that Pakistan would cooperate as long as it lasted.
There were no deadlines, he said.
A senior American administration official later said that Washington was considering giving Pakistan an extra $500m in aid, if the US Congress agreed to lift some more of the sanctions on Pakistan.
A fire broke out near the Jacobabad base on Friday.
A senior Pakistani official told the BBC that the fire was caused by a flare fired from a US aircraft to help it to land on the air base, where there is no night-landing facility.
He said the flare apparently fell into the nearby bushes which caught fire.
He ruled out the possibility of sabotage.
The official said the fire has now been brought under control and that no one had been hurt.
A BBC correspondent in Islamabad says it is not possible to verify the cause of the incident as the entire area around the air base is cordoned off.
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