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Bush Advisor Holds High-Level Talks in Pakistan - 2002-12-04

An advisor to President Bush has held talks with leaders in Pakistan. This is Washington's first high-level contact with Pakistan's new civilian government, elected in October.

Stephen Hadley, the U.S. deputy National Security Advisor, met President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and other senior Pakistani officials.

A foreign ministry statement issued Wednesday says the discussions focused on bilateral relations as well as the regional situation, including Afghanistan. It says that Mr. Hadley expressed the U.S. administration's appreciation for the smooth transfer of power to the new elected government.

A U.S. embassy spokesman describes the visit as routine. He says more such visits will take place in the coming months as relations between Washington and Islamabad are "getting back to normal."

In the late 1990s, relations between the two countries were strained when Islamabad tested nuclear weapons and Washington imposed sanctions on the country. The United States imposed additional sanctions after the 1999 military coup that put President Musharraf in power.

Pakistan, however, has become an important ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. In the past year, the two governments have become much closer.

President Musharraf, as the head of the outgoing military government, has vowed to continue cooperating with the anti-terrorism coalition until it is assured that terrorism has ended in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Jamali also has pledged to support the coalition.

That policy has angered Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Last month's general election put religious parties in power in two provinces bordering Afghanistan. This has caused concern in the West about how they might affect the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and the hunt for al-Qaida fugitives hiding in Pakistan.