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Pakistan's Musharraf Seeks European Support


http://gdb.rferl.org/603C23B4-5879-4295-A943-4483010845A6_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/603C23B4-5879-4295-A943-4483010845A6_mw800_mh600.jpg President Musharraf hopes to leave a positive impression on Europe (epa) Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is due to start a four-nation tour of Europe on January 20, during which he is expected to seek to bolster his credibility with the West. Musharraf's visits to Britain, France, Belgium, and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, come amid fears from his foreign allies that the nuclear-armed Islamic republic is facing increasing instability.

Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999 and joined the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism two years later, has pledged to restore Pakistan to full democracy.

But he has faced opposition at home and pressure from the West to get his country stable amid a wave of violence that killed hundreds of people in 2007, including opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

During his weeklong trip to Europe, Musharraf is expected to face thorny questions about his commitment to fighting terrorism after Bhutto's assassination and about Pakistan's slow progress to democratic general elections set for February 18.

There are also concerns in the West about the safety of Pakistan's estimated 50 nuclear warheads if the country unravels.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Musharraf will be in Brussels on January 20-21, where he will meet leaders of the European Union.

Musharraf will arrive in Paris on January 21 for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and business leaders.

The Pakistani leader will then head for Davos to attend the World Economic Forum meeting (January 23-25), where he is to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Musharraf will arrive in Britain on January 26 on the last leg of his trip, where he will meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown and address business leaders.

London has sent a team of detectives from Scotland Yard to help investigate Bhutto's assassination on December 27.

Controversy still surrounds the circumstances of the killing. One or more attackers shot at her and detonated a bomb as she was leaving a rally in Rawalpindi.

The Pakistani government accused an Al-Qaeda-linked militant commander, Baitullah Mehsud, of the attack. That is a conclusion shared by U.S. intelligence officials.

CIA Director Michael Hayden told "The Washington Post" on January 18 that there was "no reason to question" that the former Pakistani prime minister was killed by a "network around Baitullah Mehsud." Mehsud has denied involvement.

On January 16, Islamabad blamed forces belonging to Mehsud for seizing a fort from the military in the tribal region of South Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

The Pakistani military later in the week said its troops had killed dozens of militants in two separate battles in the same region and captured 40 fighters.
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