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Musharraf: Terrorism Rooted in Politics, not Islam - 2002-03-13

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf opened his four-day trip to Japan with a defense of Islam, saying politics, not religion, is at the root of international terrorism. Mr. Musharraf also appealed to Japan for more aid, investment and debt forgiveness.

President Musharraf told a news conference it is a mistake to perceive Islam as a religion that encourages terrorism. "The root of the tree is the political disputes around the world, which motivate or drive an individual to an extreme of giving up their lives. It is not religion. We must not get involved in this religious controversy because it has its own dangers," President Musharraf said.

Mr. Musharraf also addressed tensions with India over the disputed region of Kashmir, and praised the United States for its involvement in easing tensions. "India and Pakistan relations, frankly they have never been good and they are not good," admitted the Pakistani leader. "There is escalation and there is a tension on the borders. We sit in eyeball to eyeball contact at the moment. The situation is dangerous but with the effort of the United States, there is a degree of reduction of tension."

High on Mr. Musharraf's agenda is the resumption of Japan's aid to Pakistan's struggling economy. Japan imposed sanctions on Islamabad in 1998 following several nuclear tests. Those sanctions were lifted after the September 11 terrorist bombings in the United States and Tokyo approved some new grants, but new loans are on hold.

In addition to the resumption of loans, Mr. Musharraf hopes on his trip to convince Japanese businesses to invest in Pakistan's economy and "further strengthen diplomatic and political relations" with Tokyo.