Pakistan Leader to Meet Bush at Camp David
Jun. 24, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush will thank Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, on an arms-buying trip to the United States, for valuable help in the war on terror but will press him to try to ease nuclear tensions with his neighbor India, U.S. officials say.
Bush and Musharraf were meeting Tuesday at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.
The Pakistani is spending six days in the United States, where he is shopping for non-nuclear military equipment to strengthen his country's defenses, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Massod Khan said ahead of the visit.
After Musharraf backed the U.S.-led effort in 2001 to oust the ruling Taliban militia from Afghanistan, the Bush administration lifted many sanctions imposed against Pakistan because of its nuclear arms program and the 1999 coup that brought Musharraf to power.
Some penalties remain, however, over both the nuclear program and the coup. For instance, Congress continues to block release of 28 F-16 fighter jets that Pakistan bought 13 years ago, and U.S. officials said Monday that Bush was unlikely to recommend now that the fighters be released.
Both U.S. and Pakistani officials said they expected India-Pakistan tensions to be high on the agenda for the Bush-Musharraf talks. The United States has played an important behind the scenes role to arrange negotiations between India and Pakistan, Khan said.
Bush and Musharraf both will ``be looking at ways to bring about a reduction in tension and to kick-start a meaningful, result-oriented, composite dialogue,'' the Pakistani official told reporters Monday in Islamabad.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee initiated a thaw in relations with Pakistan in April, offering ``a hand of friendship.'' The effort has appeared to falter since then.
As part of the war on terror, the Bush administration is pressing Pakistan to end its help for militant groups in India-controlled parts of the Kashmir region.
Control of the disputed territory, three-fifths of which is under Indian rule, has been a flash point in India-Pakistan relations for half a century. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Islamic militants in Kashmir, which Pakistan denies.
Bush and Musharraf probably will talk about ``the growing efforts between Pakistan and India to reach a mutual understanding and peaceful resolutions of their disputes,'' said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
Fleischer said Bush views Musharraf as ``a strong leader who is aggressively fighting terror.''
Pakistani police have recently been rounding up Islamic militants. On Monday, Pakistani officials announced the arrests of five suspected members of an outlawed militant group blamed for killing Shiite Muslims and the kidnap-slaying of American Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The Bush administration also is encouraging Pakistan to extend formal recognition to Israel to help build Islamic support for a U.S.-backed ``road map'' to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Pakistan, the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons, never has formally recognized Israel's right to exist. Musharraf has recently hinted his country might re-evaluate its position under certain circumstances.
That has led to speculation that Bush might offer a more aggressive U.S. role on mediating the India-Pakistan conflict in exchange for Pakistan's willingness to recognize Israel.
Pakistan has said it supports the ``road map,'' which would lead to a full-fledged Palestinian state alongside Israel by 2005.
``The war on terrorism and our cooperation with Pakistan, which has been very good and very important, will be high on the agenda of that as well as a variety of other bilateral issues,'' State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Monday.
Musharraf is the first leader from South Asia to be invited to the presidential mountaintop retreat.