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Musharraf Says Moderates Must Fight Terrorism

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is appealing to moderate Muslims to stand up and confront Islamic extremists who are promoting terrorism. The president expressed his views in a speech in London.

President Musharraf has told an audience of British foreign policy experts he advocates a philosophy of what he calls "enlightened moderation" to counter the challenge of Islamic terrorism.

He told the International Institute for Strategic Studies that Muslim societies must stand up to the extremists.

"Now it is high time that we, the vast majority moderates, impose our will on them," he said. "And this has to be done through an organized, well-thought-out strategy of changing mindsets and giving the writ of the moderate majority and suppressing these minority extremists."

President Musharraf says Pakistan is moving to persuade religious schools, called madrassas, to tone down their instruction. And he says police are beginning to crack down on those who write and distribute inflammatory religious literature.

On other topics, the general played down the fact that the leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network, Osama bin Laden, remains at large, amid suspicion he could be hiding in Pakistan. President Musharraf says the Pakistani army is hunting terrorists, but they are not focused on Osama bin Laden.

"We do not know where Osama bin Laden is. We know that he is alive," he said. "We do not know where he is. So the military operation is continuing. We are using about 20,000 troops. Now his arrest, his elimination, would be incidental to the anti-terrorist operations going on."

General Musharraf also commented on relations with India, and he emphasized that settlement of the long-festering Kashmir dispute is key to lasting peace between the South Asian nuclear rivals.

"I am for peaceful resolution of disputes with India. All disputes," he said. "But Kashmir cannot be sidelined, because we have our own pride, our honor to guard. We will deal with India with sovereign equality, because we are a proud nation, and we cannot submit."

In another development, President Musharraf has left open the possibility he will stay on as army chief beyond his earlier deadline of December 31. He told a group of British lawmakers the Pakistani constitution allows him to hold the military position, while he is head of state, until 2007. He had made the December 31 pledge under pressure from the 53-nation Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies.