WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) — Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated Monday that Pakistan will remain on the list of the countries whose citizens are considered a security threat in the United States.

Pakistan was placed on the list on Dec. 18, 2002.

Longtime Pakistani visitors and non-permanent residents in the United States are required to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service between Jan. 13 and Feb. 21.

Talking to journalists after addressing the U.N. Security Council in New York, Powell said while the United States recognizes Pakistan’s contribution to the war against terror, it cannot be removed from the INS list.

“I have discussed this with (Pakistani) President (Pervez) Musharraf and Foreign Minister (Khurshid Mahmud) Kasuri … I think one has to appreciate that the United States has an obligation to secure our borders and the purpose of these procedures is not to target anyone or to intimidate anyone,” said Powell.

However, he acknowledged that registration program was “having a negative effect” on Washington’s relationship with Pakistan.

On the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration introduced new restrictions on immigrants visiting the United States. These require citizens from 25 mainly Muslim countries to be registered, photographed and fingerprinted while in America.

The program has stirred angry protests by immigrants and human rights groups who describe it as biased against Muslims and have urged the Bush administration to revoke it.

The Pakistani foreign minister, who is expected to arrive in Washington next week after attending the U.N. Security Council, has said he would urge U.S. officials to remove Pakistan from the list.

The foreign minister is scheduled to meet Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior officials in Washington next week.

“Nobody should see this as something targeted against Pakistan,” said Powell while addressing the issue at his briefing in New York. “It’s an effort to know who is in our country and to secure our borders.”

“Those individuals who are … here legally with proper documentation have nothing to fear from these registration procedures.”

He said some people do have concerns but he encouraged them to “step forward, register and resolve whatever out of status situation they may be in.”

Powell said there’s “a certain risk” for those who do not have proper documents but “nobody should see this as something targeted against Pakistan.”

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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