SANTA BARBARA, CALIF., AUG. 17; REUTER — President Reagan expressed his deep sadness on Wednesday at the deaths in an aircraft explosion of Pakistani President Mohammad ZiaulHaq and U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphel.

The President, in a message sent to Pakistan through diplomatic channels, also said the United States would fully support acting Pakistani President Ghulam Ishad Khan.

‘I am deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of President Zia Ul Haq and the American Ambassador in Pakistan, Arnold Raphel, and others in the crash of President Zia’s C130,” Reagan said in the message released by the White House.

“Nancy and I want to convey our deepest sympathy to Begum Zia and the family at their great loss,” Reagan, who is vacationing at his ranch north of Santa Barbara, said.

Marlin Fitzwater, the President’s spokesman, said Reagan was informed of the crash that occurred in a remote area of Eastern Pakistan at about 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday in a telephone call from national security advisor Colin Powell.

“Our strong support for the people of Pakistan and the security and territorial integrity of Pakistan will continue,” he said. “We will give our full support to acting President Ghulam Ishad Khan.”

The President praised Zia for his “commitment to the independence and security of his country” and for Pakistan’s support of Afghan refugees and U.S. efforts to win a withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

“In these seven and a half years, I met with President Zia several times and we worked together for peace and stability.

“He had the courage to host millions of Afghans who fled to Pakistan to escape a brutal war and to provide support for the Afghan resistance,” he said.

Reagan also expressed his sadness at Raphel’s death.

“He will be missed. Nancy and I extend our sympathy and prayers to Mrs. Raphel and to the Raphel family and to the families of the others who lost their lives,” he said.

Fitzwater said Raphel was a friend of the President and Mrs. Reagan was close to the Ambassador’s wife.

“There is a great personal feeling of loss in terms of the Ambassador’s death,” he said.

The spokesman said the cause of the explosion aboard the C130 aircraft, Zia’s personal plane, was still unknown and he refused to comment on reports the aircraft had collided with a helicopter or been shot down by a missile.

“We don’t have a lot of details and we certainly don’t have any conclusions,” he told reporters.

Fitzwater said Zia and Raphel, along with an unknown number of aides, had been in Eastern Pakistan to view a demonstration of a new tank.

The aircraft exploded shortly after taking off from Bahawalpur, near the Indian border.

Article extracted from this publication >> August 19, 1988