Bush calls Musharraf, reaffirms support

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Islamabad/Brussels, Feb.22 : US President George W. Bush has called his Pakistan counterpart Pervez Musharraf and reaffirmed Washington's support, but White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said it was "up to the Pakistani people to decide whether Musharraf retains his position".

According to the Daily Times, the Pakistan Foreign Office said Bush called Musharraf on Thursday to congratulate him on peaceful elections and reaffirm that the US would work closely with the new government.

Dana Perino confirmed the report but did not reveal what the two leaders discussed.

Bush was on a flight from Rwanda to Ghana when he made the 20-minute phone call, Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq said.

Bush said Musharraf had done exactly what he said he was going to do. President Musharraf told Bush he would like to work "with any party and any coalition because that is in the interest of Pakistan".

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at the daily briefing on Thursday that Pakistanis would have to work out arrangements for the new government themselves.

"He (Musharraf) is the president of Pakistan and I would expect that we are going to work with him and ... hope to work with whatever government emerges as a result of this election," he said.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs Richard Boucher told reporters on a visit to Brussels on Thursday that Washington hoped to keep working with President Pervez Musharraf and whatever government emerges following Pakistan's election.

Asked whether the United States would persuade Musharraf to step down if the opposition were to demand that, Boucher said: "Let us not speculate at this point."

Asked if Washington could envisage working with a government that did not have Musharraf at its head, Boucher said: "We can envisage working with a Pakistani government that is duly constituted."

Boucher said Washington's aim had been to help Pakistan make a successful democratic transition."

ANI

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