Bush urges Musharraf, Karzai to cooperate

Washington, September 28 :

President George W Bush appealed to the bickering presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan to put aside their differences and “strategize together” over dinner on ways to defeat the common enemy of terrorism.

Standing between Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday, Bush emphasized “the need to cooperate, to make sure that people have got a hopeful future” in both countries.

Karzai calls Musharraf “my brother,” but after months of sniping that put the White House in the middle of a spat between two of its closest allies, Bush decided it was time to bring the leaders together.

Judging by the body language Bush himself had said he would be watching, there were plenty of tensions to overcome over a light dinner of soup, sea bass and salad. Yesterday’s meal was billed as an “iftar,” a meal that breaks the daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The Afghan and Pakistani leaders stood stiffly on either side of Bush during a brief Rose Garden appearance before they ate.

“I look forward to having dinner with friends of mine who don’t happen to share the same faith I do but nevertheless share the same outlook for a more hopeful world,” Bush said in the brief Rose Garden remarks before dinner. “It’s very important for the people in Pakistan and in Afghanistan to know that America respects religion, and we respect the right for people to worship the way they see fit,” he said. “Today’s dinner is a chance for us to strategize together” and find common solutions, Bush said. Neither Musharraf nor Karzai, both key US allies in the region, spoke.

Musharraf remained expressionless, while Karzai repeatedly nodded agreeably. Karzai and Musharraf never touched, each taking Bush’s hand before turning to go inside, but not each other’s.

Pervez refutes allegations :

LONDON: An angry Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he would complain to British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday about allegations that Pakistan’s intelligence service backed terrorism. In media interviews ahead of the London meeting, Musharraf denied the allegations in a British defence ministry policy paper, and also said that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was alive and hiding in Afghanistan.

“Absolutely, 200 percent, I reject it,” Musharraf told the BBC in an interview on Wednesday. Musharraf also said he had nothing to confirm reports bin Laden may have died. “I don’t know” about bin Laden having died, he said. — AFP