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Bush, Musharraf to Discuss War on Terror, Aid - 2002-02-12

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is in Washington where he will meet with President Bush at the White House Wednesday. The leaders are expected to discuss the war against terrorism and the search for an American journalist kidnapped in Pakistan.

President Bush is expected to thank the Pakistani leader for taking a tough stand against Islamic extremism in a country that was formerly one of the few that recognized Taleban rule in Afghanistan. Since the attacks of September 11, President Musharraf has become one of the most important allies in the fight against terrorism.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says Wednesday's meeting will include economic as well as military issues.

"They are going to discuss a wide range of issues including the war against terrorism, education reform which interestingly has been a key issue for President Musharraf. It's something that he spent a lot of time talking about in New York. I anticipate they will spend a lot more time talking about it here in Washington. I anticipate they are going to talk about economic assistance and also restoration of democratic government in Pakistan," Mr. Fleischer said.

Mr. Fleischer said he expects the men will also discuss the fate of kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. U.S. and Pakistani officials have been working to find Mr. Pearl since he was abducted in the Pakistani city of Karachi on January 23 while reporting on a story about Islamic extremism.

Mr. Fleischer said President Bush and President Musharraf will discuss military-to-military cooperation as well as expanding military exchange programs.

Coming to the White House is quite a change for President Musharraf who faced international sanctions after he came to power in a bloodless coup in October of 1999. That embargo has now been lifted and economic assistance restored to a country President Bush says is an important "frontline state in the fight against terrorism."

At their first face-to-face meeting in New York last November, President Bush backed international debt relief for Pakistan, saying greater trade and investment opportunities coupled with sound Pakistani economic policies will put the country on what he called "a solid footing" toward a return to civilian rule in elections planned for later this year.

President Musharraf called it "the dawn of a new era" between Pakistan and the United States, not only in the fight against terrorism, but also in efforts to slow the spread of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The White House meeting Wednesday is expected to focus on greater economic assistance for Pakistan as well as President Musharraf's call for international mediation in the Kashmiri border dispute with India.