U.S. President George W. Bush has announced a $3 billion package of military and economic aid for Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terrorism. The announcement came after talks with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf at Camp David, the U.S. presidential retreat near Washington.
Mr. Bush said President Musharraf has been a courageous leader in fighting terrorism, and a friend of the United States. He said President Musharraf deserves America's help. "I will work with the United States Congress on a $3 billion assistance package to help advance security and economic opportunity for Pakistan's citizens," he said.
The president said about half the aid will be military in nature, but he said the package will not include F-16 fighter jets requested by Pakistan.
India is opposed to the sale of F-16's to Islamabad, and Mr. Bush indicated the issue generated some lively debate during his meeting with President Musharraf. "The president is not afraid to bring up the issue of F-16's," said Mr Bush. "He has been a strong advocate for the sale of F-16's to Pakistan."
President Musharraf did not dwell at length in public on the F-16's. Instead, he focused on key agreements that will be signed during his stay in the United States. "One relates to the trade and investment framework agreement, which will help move toward an eventual free trade agreement, the FTA," he said.
The Pakistani leader also spoke of a shared commitment to fight terror, noting that his government has sent troops into remote tribal areas in hopes of finding terrorist fugitives, including al-Qaida leader Osama bin Ladin. "We have cooperated closely in the global fight against terrorism," he said, "and we stand determined to rid the world of this menace."
President Musharraf is the first South Asian leader to be invited to Camp David, the secluded mountain retreat in the state of Maryland. The visit comes at a time when efforts are under way to ease tensions between Pakistan and neighboring India. President Bush said he is "encouraged" by the progress made so far and pledged to do all he can to promote peace.