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Bush to Visit India, Pakistan


President Bush says he will visit India and Pakistan in March. The president made the announcement after talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The president told Prime Minister Aziz he is looking forward to the visit.

"I will be traveling to India and Pakistan in March and I want to thank you for your invitation and your hospitality in advance," said Mr. Bush.

The announcement was expected, as the president has made no secret of his desire to go to the region. The Pakistani prime minister said he will be welcome.

"Because we think that this is an important visit for building our relations further between our two countries and serving the cause of peace in the world," he said.

The trip is in the planning stages, and the White House is not likely to release the dates or the itinerary for some time. But it is already clear President Bush will have a full agenda for his talks, starting with the war on terrorism.

In the public comments after their meeting, both the president and the prime minister stressed their joint commitment to fight the terrorist threat. President Bush praised their anti-terror alliance.

"I think the relationship with Pakistan is a vital relationship for the United States and I want to thank the prime minister and thank the president for working closely with us on a variety of issues," added Mr. Bush.

The two men avoided any reference to the recent U.S. missile attack against reported al-Qaida targets in a village in eastern Pakistan that took at least 18 lives.

The attack touched off demonstrations across Pakistan and Prime Minister Aziz has complained that his government was not notified in advance. But in his comments to reporters at the White House, he downplayed differences between Islamabad and Washington.

"Our coalition with the United States in fighting terrorism is very important to all of the world and all of civil society," he noted.

Just before he went to the White House, Prime Minister Aziz got some welcome news from U.S. trade officials. They said they have determined after a thorough review that Pakistan is clamping down on the producers of fake CDs and DVDs and no longer runs the risk of having important U.S. trade benefits under the GSP - or Generalized System of Preferences withdrawn.

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