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No deal with Bhutto: Musharraf

The president added that the general elections would be held by the end of the year in a fair and transparent manner.

world Updated: Apr 21, 2007 14:10 IST

Playing down reports of political rapprochement with former Premier Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said there was "no deal at all" and insisted that he would not quit as Army Chief till the general elections, which he promised to hold as scheduled later this year.

"There's no deal at all, no alliance, no deal" with Bhutto, Musharraf told Al-Arabia television in an interview.

He said the general elections would be held by the end of the year in a fair and transparent manner, and any political action could be considered after viewing their outcome.

Musharraf also said he was legally entitled to continue to hold the dual authority of President and Army Chief.

"I am not removing the uniform till the elections because I have been allowed constitutionally to remain the President and the Chief of the Army staff till the end of the year," he said without elaborating his plans thereafter.

He said it was decided by Parliament with a two-thirds majority to keep the two offices at a time.

While he denied a deal with Bhutto which according to reports he was pursuing under pressure from United States, he said any change in Pakistan would be through political process by its people and not by any outside pressure.

Fair, free and impartial elections would be held this year according to the Constitution of the country, Musharraf said. "This is election year and we will follow the Constitution of Pakistan."

On US-Pakistan relations, Musharraf dispelled the impression that they came under strain over differences on dealing with Taliban.

Musharraf said US and Pakistan had excellent contacts. "We have excellent intelligence cooperation, we have excellent cooperation at the strategical and operational levels."

He said there was complete understanding between him and US President George W Bush, so there was no doubt about Pakistan's role and importance in the war against terrorism.

Musharraf said there were certain areas where there could be difference of perception, but that did not mean that they were doubting Pakistan's role in war against terrorism or his resolve or intention to fight the Taliban or extremists.

"We are moving on four prongs to control this situation (arising out of the presence of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan's tribal areas) by focusing on political, military, administrative and developmental aspects. No other person or country is doing this in such a holistic manner."

Also, he said Pakistan was against nuclear proliferation and believed in the use of nuclear technology for peaceful means.

"We will not allow any force in the world to destabilise Pakistan or to challenge its existence."

Musharraf dispelled the notion of an "Islamic bomb" used by the West and said, "Why this is called Islamic bomb and others not Christian bomb, Hindu bomb or Jewish bomb?"

He termed Iran's nuclear conflict "extremely dangerous" and said an attack against that country would be a disaster for Tehran and the Gulf. "We would like to avoid taking sides, rather play a role to stop the conflict with some understanding."

He said the possibility of military action against Iran even by Israel cannot be undermined. The strategy for a possible military attack on Iran would be very high-tech and should not be compared with that of Iraq and Afghanistan, where ground forces were used, the NNI news agency quoted him as saying during the interview.

On Afghanistan, Musharraf said Kabul should control its internal situation by itself rather than blaming Pakistan and "should not bury head like an ostrich in the sand to avoid danger."

"Blaming Pakistan for exporting terrorists must be stopped," he said.

Musharraf said the fight was in fact between the Afghan government along with coalition forces against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other Afghan groups. He said there was some support only from parts of Pakistan, which must be stopped.

In a message to the Arab countries, Musharraf said they should rise beyond the difference between the Arab and non-Arab states and act as an overall Muslim world.

"The issues confronting the Middle East should be dealt with beyond the Arab world. There is a Muslim world beyond the Arab world. Let's the Muslim world play a role in helping resolve your disputes," he said.

Replying to a question, the President said the Palestine issue was the root cause of the international dispute and added that efforts should be made for its political settlement instead of using only force, and then Iraq and Afghanistan issues should be looked into.

When asked if he was ready to play any role in resolving the Palestine issue, Musharraf said "I do not believe in intruding in that area, where I am not required or I am not welcomed by both sides, if at all there is a role that I can play, and both sides accept that role, I will play that role."

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