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Musharraf Says Pakistan Has al-Qaida on the Run


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he is confident his country is winning the war on terrorism. He spoke after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London to discuss the war on terrorism and other issues.

President Musharraf says he rejects suggestions that Pakistan has not done enough to fight al-Qaida terrorists since the 2001 attacks on the United States and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

He told a London news conference about 600 al-Qaida members have been arrested in Pakistan and his security forces have pursued the terrorists aggressively.

"We have broken the back of al-Qaida in Pakistan, and I say this with total conviction and authority," he said. "They are on the run. Their command-and-control structure is broken. Their logistics bases have been smashed and we occupy them. Now there ought to be no reason for any doubts that Pakistan has won and is winning the battle against extremism and terrorism within its own area."

There has been speculation that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden took refuge in Pakistan's tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan following the 2001 invasion. General Musharraf told U.S. news media last week he has no idea where Osama bin Laden may be hiding.

In a separate interview with British television, President Musharraf said the war on terrorism also must focus on the root causes of the extremist movement, both political and economic.

"What gives rise to a terrorist? What gives rise to a young man or a woman to give up her or his life? It is the political disputes, and we need to resolve them, and also the issue of illiteracy and poverty," he said. "And this combined are breeding grounds of extremism and terrorism."

At the news conference, Mr. Musharraf said Prime Minister Blair agreed with him that terrorism cannot be defeated solely by military might.

In their two-hour meeting at Mr. Blair's Downing Street office, the two leaders also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of the political issues Mr. Musharraf says needs to be settled in order to combat terrorism.

The meeting came as Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that London could host an international peace conference on the Middle East in late January or early February. The newspaper says Mr. Blair plans to travel to the region later this month to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders about the proposal.

A spokesman for Mr. Blair does not confirm or deny the report, but says it is premature to talk about such a conference.