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US Vows Continued Support for Pakistan

The United States expressed gratitude Monday for the commitment of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to the war against terrorism. U.S. officials say his resignation is an internal Pakistani matter, and that the Bush administration looks forward to continued cooperation with the Islamabad government. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Mr. Musharraf had been described by senior Bush administration officials as an indispensable ally in the war against terrorism. But they say his resignation, under threat of impeachment, need not affect U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in curbing regional extremism and on other issues.

The tone of the U.S. response to the resignation was set by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who in a written statement said the Mr. Musharraf has the United States' deep gratitude for what she termed his "critical choice" in 2001 to join the fight against al-Qaida, the Taleban and other extremists groups threatening regional and global peace and security.

At the same time, Rice said the United States supported the transition to a democratic government in Pakistan and respects the results of its elections in February that dealt the former president a crushing setback.

Rice said the United States believes that respect for democratic and constitutional processes is fundamental to Pakistan's future and to the fight against terrorism, and will continue to work with its new leaders and urge them to "redouble efforts" to focus on urgent needs including stemming the growth of extremism.

In a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood dismissed suggestions the United States had over-invested in Mr. Musharraf personally in its dealings with Pakistan, saying the relationship goes far beyond one person.

"The war against extremism is bigger than any one person," he said. "And what's important here is that we work with Pakistan to do what we can to root out these extremists, and to prevent them from crossing the border into Afghanistan and carrying out attacks, and protecting targets in Pakistan. And so this is a big fight, it's a long-term one, and it's much larger than any individual."

The U.S. relationship with Mr. Musharraf deteriorated late last year with the Bush administration's criticism of his state of emergency declaration and pressure on him to give up his parallel role of army chief of staff, which he did in late November.

Spokesman Wood said the United States is in day-to-day contact with the government of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. But he said he was unaware of any recent communication with Mr. Musharraf and also said he had not heard of any discussion about the former leader seeking exile in the United States.