Rice Pushes Pakistan on 2007 Elections - finally!
Rice Pushes Pakistan on 2007 Elections
By ANNE GEARAN , 06.27.2006
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised two key Muslim allies who are sometimes at odds, calling Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai stalwart fighters in the fight against terrorism.
"Our view is that we have two good friends and two fierce fighters in the war on terror," the top U.S. diplomat said Tuesday following meetings with Musharraf and Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri.
But, Rice added, she expects Pakistan's military leader to fulfill his promise to hold democratic elections next year.
Rice will see Karzai on Wednesday for talks on that country's political progress and the international military campaign to quell terrorism in the south.
She also planned to meet with counterparts from the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Moscow on Thursday, where the topic was expected to be Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Rice's back-to-back visits were meant to temper tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan over responsibility for securing their chaotic border and routing Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists presumed to be hiding there.
Karzai has criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to go after terrorists along the mountainous border between the two nations. A clearly frustrated Karzai last week also criticized the U.S.-assisted coalition anti-terror campaign in his chaotic country, deploring the deaths of hundreds of Afghans and appealing for more help for his government. The coalition has killed hundreds, mostly Taliban militants, since May.
"Which country has a greater stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan?" Kasuri asked during a long and emotional defense of his nation's military and other efforts along the border.
Pakistan wants cross-border oil and gas pipelines, more regional trade and other development that it is not possible without more stability in Afghanistan, he said. He described recent talks with the Afghan foreign minister as productive, but said he asked his counterpart what possible motive Pakistan would have to destabilize its neighbor.
He challenged Afghanistan to prove militants are hiding out in Quetta, as some officials have claimed, or elsewhere in Pakistan. Previous tips from Karzai himself about militant whereabouts were out of date, he added.
"Tell us where they are hiding," he said. "We promise to investigate and take action."
Rice smiled tightly during Kasuri's monologue, adding only that the United States considers both nations to be strong allies and that all sides are trying to coordinate.
Before arriving in Pakistan, Rice said she had spoken several times with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and also with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about defusing the tension in Gaza, where Palestinian militants killed two Israeli soldiers and abducted another.
She urged patience to give diplomacy a chance to win the release of the Israeli soldier.
"There really needs to be an effort now to try and calm the situation, not to let the situation escalate," Rice said during a news conference aboard her plane.
Musharraf became an unlikely ally of the Bush administration following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when he pledged cooperation against terrorists who passed easily between Pakistan and the lawless Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan has come an enormously long way in a period of four years," Rice said aboard her plane. "We are fortunate there too that you have a leadership that is committed to putting Pakistan on a course toward moderation rather than a course toward extremism."
Rice had even stronger praise for Karzai.
"This is an extraordinary leader and we're going to back him and back him fully," Rice said. "When he has problems we're going to sit with him and we're going to find ways to resolve those problems. But any implication that anybody thinks that he is somehow not up to the job or not living up to his responsibilities is simply false."
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