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More efforts needed to defeat Al-Qaeda: Bush

The US President thanked President Pervez Musharraf for his "bold decision" to join the war on terror.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 15:28 IST

US President George W Bush on Saturday thanked Pakistan's military ruler President Pervez Musharraf for his "bold decision" to join the war on terror but said more work was needed to defeat Al-Qaeda.

Bush, on the final leg of a South Asian tour that has also taken in India and Afghanistan, reaffirmed the strategic relationship between Washington and Islamabad forged after September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

General Musharraf said Pakistan and the US had further strengthened their ties but expressed regret at a suicide attack that killed a US diplomat a day before Bush's arrival, saying it was timed "very viciously".

"President Musharraf made a bold decision after September 11 when Pakistan chose to fight terror," Bush told a joint press conference after hour-long talks with Musharraf.

The Pakistani leader has survived three assassination attempts since he abandoned Islamabad's support for Afghanistan's Taliban regime and backed the US-led military operation to topple the fundamentalists.

Asked about Indian and Afghan concerns that Pakistan has not done enough to crack down on extremists, Bush replied: "There is a lot of work to be done in defeating Al-Qaeda. We must locate them and be prepared to bring them to justice."

Pakistani police detained opposition leaders including former cricketer Imran Khan to prevent planned protests, while tensions remained high after the suicide car bombing outside the US consulate in Karachi on Thursday.

Unprecedented security turned Islamabad into a ghost town for the first visit to Pakistan by Bush, who arrived with his wife Laura and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice late on Friday.

Pakistani officials described the talks at the imposing presidential compound in Islamabad as "fruitful".

Bush earlier inspected an honour guard of Pakistani soldiers, while the First Lady met Musharraf's wife Sehba and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's wife Rukshana, the official added.

Two US Black Hawk helicopters circled low over central Islamabad throughout the visit, anti-aircraft guns were positioned on nearby hillsides and thousands of police lined the streets.

Bush spent the night at the heavily fortified US embassy and will spend the whole day in Islamabad, also meeting businessmen and attending a banquet -- which opposition legislators have vowed to boycott.

Bush, an avid baseball fan, was expected to meet Pakistani cricket captain Inzamam-ul Haq, vice captain Younis Khan and opener Salman Butt as well as child players from this cricket-crazy country.

Bush's maiden trip to Pakistan despite the security risks is being seen as a show of solidarity for Musharraf, whose alliance with Washington has angered Islamists at home.

Pakistan has around 70,000 troops along the rugged frontier with Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden and other militants are thought to be hiding, and has caught several key Al-Qaeda militants.

Opposition Islamic groups led a national strike and protests against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on Friday, which turned into anti-Bush rallies, and called for Pakistanis to observe a "black day" on Saturday.

A spokesman for Imran Khan's small Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or Movement for Justice party, told AFP that the ex-cricket captain was under house arrest to stop him leading a protest in Rawalpindi near Islamabad.

Police also detained a lawmaker from Pakistan's main alliance of religious parties who planned to head the rally instead, and dozens of other activists.

For Pakistan the visit is a chance to consolidate its relationship with Washington, after Bush hailed a new strategic partnership with Islamabad's traditional rival New Delhi.

Bush clinched a landmark nuclear energy deal with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Pakistan says it wants a "similar" arrangement despite a proliferation scandal involving its disgraced top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Musharraf is expected to ask Bush to push India on the their nearly six-decade-old feud over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, trigger of two of their three wars. India and Pakistan began a peace process in 2004.

Officials said Pakistan and the United States were also working on finalizing a bilateral investment treaty, seen as a first step to a Free Trade Agreement.

First Published: Mar 04, 2006 15:28 IST