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US, Pakistani Presidents Reaffirm Commitment to War on Terror


President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf say they stand united in the war on terror, and stress they look forward to an era of enhanced cooperation. The comments came as Mr. Bush made his first visit to Pakistan.

President Bush says Pakistan's cooperation is crucial to the war on terror.

"President Musharraf made a bold decision for his people, and peace, after September 11th, when Pakistan chose to fight the terrorists," he said.

He noted that Pakistani forces are on the hunt for al-Qaida leaders in the remote areas bordering Afghanistan. Islamic militants are still active in Pakistan despite scores of arrests by the government, but Mr. Bush said he is convinced Mr. Musharraf's commitment to the fight is strong.

"Part of my mission today was to determine if the president is as committed as he has been in the past to bring these terrorists to justice, and he is," Mr. Bush said.

But the position taken by Mr. Musharraf has many critics in Pakistan. Militants have tried to assassinate him on several occasions, and there have been repeated protests in the streets.

On Thursday, the day before Mr. Bush's arrival, an American diplomat and three Pakistanis were killed in a car bombing outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. President Musharraf said he regrets the incident, but stressed he would not be deterred.

"It's very clear that the intentions of Pakistan and my intentions are absolutely clear - that we have a strong partnership on the issue of fighting terrorism," he said.

President Bush had to strike a delicate balance during this visit. While praising Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror, he also tried to prod President Musharraf to implement greater democratic reforms.

General Musharraf, who came to power seven years ago in a bloodless coup, still has not given up his job as army chief, as he originally promised he would. When a reporter asked about his commitment to reform, he went on the defensive, and spoke of emerging democratic institutions in Pakistan.

"We have introduced the essence of democracy now in Pakistan. It has been done now. All of these things never existed before," he said.

Other issues that came up during the talks in Islamabad included Iran's nuclear ambitions, Pakistan's energy needs, and efforts to improve Pakistani-Indian relations and resolve the two neighbors' long-standing dispute over the region of Kashmir.

President Bush said he believes that efforts by Mr. Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manhoman Singh to ease tensions on the subcontinent will ultimately be successful.

"The best way for Kashmir to be resolved is for leaders of both countries to step up and lead," he noted. "And that is exactly what President Musharraf has done, and that is what Prime Minister Singh has assured me he wants to do."

Pakistan is the final stop on the president's South Asia tour. He came to Islamabad after three days in New Delhi and a quick surprise visit to Afghanistan.

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