'Musharraf says his doors open to Sharif'

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Islamabad, Jul 3: Assuring his support for democracy, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said his doors were open to everyone, including former premier Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan's private online news agency reported that the president said this during a meeting with the US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who met him on Thursday, July 2.

Mr Sharif, who was ousted from power by President Musharraf in a bloodless military coup as army chief in October 1999, returned to Pakistan in November last year after a seven-year exile. His Pakistan Muslim League (N) emerged as the second biggest party in February 18 election, which trounced Musharraf's political allies. The former prime minster's party PML(N) became partner in coalition government with slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party but later quit the cabinet of Ministers for dilly dallying on part of the latter to restore judges deposed by Gen (retd) Musharraf in November. Mr Sharif demanded that president Musharraf, who was not a legal and constitutional President, should be impeached.

Meanwhile, a foreign ministry statement said Mr Boucher exchanged views with the former Chief of Army Staff on Pakistan-US relations, counter-terrorism cooperation and regional developments of mutual interest.

The President underscored the importance of multifaceted cooperation between Pakistan and the United States, and said there was a need to deepen cooperation in the agreed areas of economy, energy, education, and science&technology.

President Musharraf reiterated Pakistan's commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism highlighting the elements of the three-pronged counter-terrorism strategy.

Assistant Secretary Boucher expressed US commitment to a strong, broad-based relationship with Pakistan. He also appreciated the government's efforts to address extremism and terrorism and expressed US support for economic and social development of Pakistan.

Mr Boucher told a press conference in Islamabad that Pakistan's problem at the moment was not Musharraf , adding that the real problems for this country were suicide bombings, security and food and energy crisis.


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