Europeans unconvinced about Musharraf being best bet

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Lahore, Jan.30 : Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf attempt to convince European leaders that he is their best bet in so far as combating international extremism and terrorism has been largely unsuccessful, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a report, the paper claims that Musharraf has returned home with "far less than a resounding endorsement".

It says that the majority message from leaders such as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Musharraf was that he must ensure that the February 18 general elections are held in a free and fair manner.

Analysts in Europe and Pakistan say that there has been a slight but perceptible change of approach among European leaders confronted with a dangerous security situation in Pakistan.

"We're seeing a very subtle shift ... away from a policy that was predicated on support for just one man," the Daily Times quoted Farzana Sheikh, a Pakistan expert at Chatham House, one of Britain's premier foreign policy think tanks, as saying.

The new approach emphasises "the need not just to strengthen President Musharraf, but indeed to strengthen Pakistan's political institutions, which many believe have been sorely damaged under Musharraf," she added.

The message from Musharraf's side, analysts say, was that despite the political turbulence and violence, his game plan is correct.

"He's trying, really, to reassure the West and Western leaders that whatever he's doing is the right thing - namely having postponed the elections and so on. It's a confidence-building measure on his part," said Lawrence Saez, a Pakistan expert at the London School of Economics' Asia Research Centre.

"Western leaders are not going to be imposing specific, hard deadlines on him to act in specific ways, other than to assure that there will be fair elections, because there's no real viable political alternative to Musharraf," he added.

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