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Bush, Musharraf Hold White House Talks


President Bush has praised his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf, for being one of the first foreign leaders to "step up" and join the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Mr. Bush made the remark to reporters at the White House Friday, after the two men held wide-ranging talks on international and regional issues. The U.S. president said he was "taken aback" by reports that the United States threatened to bomb Pakistan if it did not cooperate after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In an earlier interview with CBS Television, General Musharraf said then-Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage made the threat. He said Armitage threatened to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" if it did not cooperate in the war on terrorism.

Armitage said Friday he never threatened that the U.S. would bomb Pakistan, but he said he gave a tough message, saying either Pakistan is "with us or against us."

President Musharraf declined to comment on his CBS interview when he and President Bush faced reporters. Mr. Bush has repeatedly praised the Pakistani leader for arresting hundreds of al-Qaida leaders within his country's borders.

The two leaders told reporters their talks were candid, and that they reinforced trust and confidence in each other.

President Musharraf said both Washington and Islamabad are on a joint hunt for Osama bin Laden, and that there is no need for publicly discussing the strategy and the tactics of that hunt.

President Bush said he admires General Musharraf's courage. He said the Pakistani leader has been a target of extremists and terrorists because he is a strong and moderate leader. He also said the Pakistani leader assured him he will hold free and fair elections.

The two men discussed Pakistan's relations with neighboring India and Afghanistan. And General Musharraf said he explained the recent truce that the Pakistani military reached with pro-Taleban militants in the semi-autonomous tribal regions of Pakistan.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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