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Rumsfeld Extends US Support for Pakistan's 'Legitimate' Defense Needs


Donald Rumsfeld (l) is welcomed by Pakistan's Defense Minister Rao Sikander Iqbal (r)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has wrapped up a tour of South Asia with a pledge that the United States would help Pakistan meet its defense needs. Mr. Rumsfeld also had praise for Pakistan's role in the war on terror.

Pakistani officials describe a warm meeting between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Pervez Musharraf.

"Secretary Rumsfeld expressed appreciation for Pakistan's important role in promoting regional peace and the critical cooperation being extended by Pakistan in global war on terrorism," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani.

Few details of their meeting late Wednesday were available and U.S. authorities declined comment on the meeting. But an official Pakistani statement says Mr. Rumsfeld said Washington would increase support to help Pakistan meet its "legitimate" defense needs.

The statement also says Mr. Musharraf praised Washington's recent decision to allow the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan, saying it will enhance the nation's defense.

It is the first time Washington has agreed to ship jets to Pakistan since Islamabad tested a nuclear bomb in 1998.

Pakistan is a close U.S. ally in its war against terrorism and has received both economic and military assistance in return.

Mr. Rumsfeld is wrapping up a trip that started Tuesday in Iraq. On Wednesday he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and discussed regional security issues, including the long-term military relationship between the United States and Afghanistan.

The defense secretary left Pakistan for a trip to Kyrgyzstan, a key base of operations for the U.S. military. There he received assurances from the country's new government that U.S. forces could continue using facilities in the country.

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