Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf downplayed fears Tuesday that Islamist militants are gaining strength in Pakistan. His remarks came during a visit to Paris that included talks with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy. Pervez Musharraf is to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Lisa Bryant has more from the French capital.
Speaking at the French Institute of International Relations, President Musharraf downplayed recent clashes between Pakistani forces and Islamic militants on the country's border with Afghanistan.
"When we have an armed forces of Pakistan of 500,000 standing army and second line forces, I don't think it's possible that this al-Qaida, or the Taliban, can take over Pakistan," said Pervez Musharraf.
Mr. Musharraf spoke on the second stop of a European tour aimed at convincing skeptical leaders here of his committment to democracy and human rights and his fight against terrorism. He was in Brussels Monday, where he met with NATO and European Union officials, including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
On Tuesday, Mr. Musharraf also held talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. A French presidential spokesman told the AFP news agency that France will continue to support Islamabad in its fight against terrorism, and that all nations have an interest in a stable and democratic Pakistan.
But Pakistan analyst Farzana Shaikh of Cambridge University in England, says Mr. Musharraf has yet to convince many European lawmakers he is committed to democracy.
"If we are to go by the statements of the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana yesterday, I think President Musharraf still has an uphill task," said Farzana Shaikh. "Solana made it very clear that future engagements would depend very much on President Musharraf making enough of a case that [parliamentary] elections would be free and fair and that Pakistan was serious about the restoration of the rule of law."
Mr. Musharraf next heads for Davos, Switzerland, where top business and political leaders are gathering for the World Economic Forum. His last stop is in London, where he holds talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.