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Bush Hails U.S.-Pakistan Partnership

U.S. President George W. Bush (left) and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf field journalists questions in Islamabad, 4 March. (epa) PRAGUE, March 4, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- U.S President George W. Bush has thanked Pakistan's president for what he said was his bold decision to join the war on terror. But Bush, on a visit to Pakistan, said more work needs to be done to defeat Al-Qaeda.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf welcomed Bush to Pakistan with military pomp and ceremony.

The two leaders sat under a green canopy at the presidential palace, as a military band played their countries' national anthems, and then held one-on-one talks, followed by a joint press conference.

There, Bush praised what he called a broad and lasting strategic partnership between America and Pakistan -- a
partnership, he said, that begins with close cooperation in the war on terror.

But, he added, "there's a lot of work to be done in defeating Al-Qaeda...We spent a good while this morning talking about the work that needs to be done."

His prescription for "the best way to defeat Al-Qaeda is to share good intelligence, to locate [terrorists] and then be prepared to bring them to justice."

Musharraf said his talks with Bush had "revived and maybe strengthened" the strategic relationship with the United
States, but he alluded to lapses in Pakistan's fight against militants.

"If at all there are slippages it is possible in the implementation part," the Pakistani leader said. "But as long as the intention is clear, the resolve is there and the strategy is clear, we are moving forward toward delivering and we will succeed."

It was not all praise and war-on-terror talk.

On Kashmir, a dispute that has caused two wars between India and Pakistan, Bush said the best chance for a resolution was for the leaders of both those countries to "step up and lead."

Bush also prodded Musharraf on the need for more democratic reforms in Pakistan, which Musharraf has led since he seized power in 1999.

And he gave no public assurances that the United States would give Pakistan the same nuclear assistance it has just agreed to provide India, Pakistan's neighbor and its greatest rival. Under the deal, India would open up its civilian nuclear program to international scrutiny in exchange for U.S. assistance to develop the program, but, critically, the United States would not demand that India join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or allow inspectors to monitor its military nuclear program.

Bush did, though, say he had no problem with Iran supplying natural gas to Pakistan -- an issue that Washington has previously been cool towards.

"We understand the need to get natural gas in the region, and that's fine," Bush said.

Security has been tight during Bush's visit to Pakistan, the latest leg of an Asian tour that has already taken him to Afghanistan and India.

There were protests on March 3 ahead of his arrival, and more are planned for today.