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Musharraf: US Understands Pakistan's Need for Support

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he is looking forward to U.S. debt forgiveness and renewed military sales - concrete evidence of the Bush administration's gratitude for Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terrorism.

The Pakistani leader came to the Pentagon after meeting President Bush at the White House. Following his talks with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Mr. Musharraf made clear his desire for improved ties and told reporters the United States understands Pakistan's need for support, especially in the area of debt relief.

"We are partners with the United States in the fight against terrorism," said Mr. Musharraf. "We did not quantify the return we will get for this. But I am very glad to say the United States understands our concerns and our shortcomings and we are glad to say we got necessary support from the United States, as far as this visit particularly is concerned, we certainly are talking of debt write-off."

Mr. Musharraf declined to go into detail pending an official announcement. But news reports indicate the Bush administration may forgive up to $1 billion of Pakistan's $3 billion debt to U.S. lenders.

Mr. Musharraf indicated that, instead of debt relief, his talks at the Pentagon specifically focused on a Pakistani shopping list for military equipment.

"There is a list of our requirements which we have discussed and we hope that as time passes, we have also established this defense consultative group," he said. "That will look into the physical side of what we need to address, so I think the future holds good for our relationship and for the equipment that you're talking of in concrete forms, as time passes, things will start happening."

Neither the Pakistani leader nor Mr. Rumsfeld disclosed specifics of Pakistan's military shopping list. But Pentagon sources indicated Pakistan was interested in various types of aircraft as well as ships and other conventional arms. U.S. arms sales were disrupted when Washington imposed sanctions against Islamabad because of its nuclear program. However since the start of U.S. anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan last October, Pakistan has provided U.S. forces with intelligence, access to military bases, use of its airspace, and stepped-up border patrols to halt the flight of al-Qaida and Taleban fighters.

Mr. Rumsfeld hailed the Pakistani leader for what he termed his "tough decisions" and "bold steps." He also said the United States looks forward to strengthened military ties with Pakistan.