Bush praises Mush but promises to work with opponents

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Washington, Aug 19: Top US leaders, including President George Bush expressed their gratitude to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for his role in the war against global terrorism, but promised to work with his opponents who brought to an end his nine-year-old regime.

''President Bush appreciates President Musharraf's efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan, as well as his commitment to fighting al-Qaeda and extremist groups,'' White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said yesterday, and added President Bush was looking forward to working with Pakistan government on the economic, political and security challenges the country face.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was equally upbeat in praising the outgoing military ruler who assumed office in a bloodless coup in 1999. In a written statement, Rice called Musharraf ''one of the world's most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism.'' ''President Musharraf made the critical choice (in 2001) to join the fight against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups that threaten the peace and security of Pakistan, its neighbours, and partners throughout the world. For this, he has our deep gratitude,'' she said.

Some South Asia experts here fear that Musharraf's exit, under the threat of impeachment, may result in political instability in Pakistan, jeopardising its cooperation with the US in fight against terrorism, particularly in its border areas adjoining Afghanistan.

Washington now has to deal with a shaky coalition led by old rivals -- former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan People's Party leader Asif Ali Zardari.

However, both President Bush and Secretary Rice said they looked forward to continued cooperation with Islamabad.

Commenting on Musharraf's resignation, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood disagreed with the view that the US had over-invested in Musharraf personally in its dealings with Pakistan.

He said, ''The war against extremism is bigger than any one person. And what's important here is that we work with Pakistan to do what we can to root out these extremists, and to prevent them from crossing the border into Afghanistan and carrying out attacks, and protecting targets in Pakistan. And so this is a big fight, it's a long-term one, and it's much larger than any individual.'' He said the US was in day-to-day contact with the Pakistan government led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. But, he was unaware of any recent communication between the US and Musharraf.

Nor had he heard of any discussion about Musharraf seeking exile in the United States.


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