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Osama hunt | 'US, Pakistan together'

"All I can tell you is that when Osama bin Laden is found, he will be brought to justice", says Bush.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2006 02:56 IST

Two days after a spat over whether he would allow the United States to go into Pakistan after Osama bin Laden, President General Pervez Musharraf onFriday declared the two countries were together in the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist.

Echoing the words of his host, US President George W. Bush, Musharraf said: "I think, as the president said, we are in the hunt together against these people. Now, why are we bothering of how to the semantics of the tactics of how to deal with the situation?"

"We will deal with it. We are in the hunt together. You want the person. If at all we confront him, if at all we find out his location, we are quite clear what to do. So let's not get involved in how it ought to be done, by whom it ought to be done," he said at a joint press meet at the White House.

"There is total coordination at the intelligence level between the two forces, there is coordination at the operational level, at the strategic level, even at the tactical level. So, we are working together and when the situation arises we need to take the right decision to strike," Musharraf said.

"We probably don't want to let him know what we're thinking about, do we?" added Bush, who had earlier remarked that he believed Musharraf when he says, "if we find" or "when we find Osama bin Laden, he will be brought to justice". And we'll let the tactics speak for themselves after it happens.

"We're on the hunt together. It's in the president's (Musharraf's) interest that Al-Qaeda be brought to justice. And it's in our interests. And we collaborate and we strategize and we talk a lot about how best to do this," he said.

Asked if that meant, he had permission to go into Pakistan, Bush said: "All I can tell you is that when Osama bin Laden is found, he will be brought to justice. And that's what we've continually discussed."

Bush said he also believed Musharraf on his deal with tribal leaders in North Waziristan. "When the president looks me in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there won't be Al-Qaeda, I believe him."

Musharraf then chipped in "May I also say that we need to have ladies and gentlemen here, we have the basis of a relationship is trust and confidence. And if we don't have that trust and confidence in each other and we think that we are bluffing each other, I don't think that's a good way of moving forward."

Asked if after 9/11, the US would have actually attacked Pakistan if President Musharraf had not agreed to cooperate with the war on terrorism, Bush claimed: "You know, the first I heard of this is when I read it in the newspaper today."

"I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words. All I can tell you is that shortly after 9/11, Secretary (of State) Colin Powell came in and said, 'President Musharraf understands the stakes and he wants to join and help rout out an enemy that has come and killed 3,000 of our citizens'.

"Matter of fact, my recollection was that one of the first leaders to step up and say that the stakes have changed, that attack on America that killed 3,000 of the citizens needs to be dealt with firmly, was the president.

"And if I'm not mistaken, Colin told us that, if not the night of September the 11th, shortly thereafter. Now, I need to make sure I get my facts straight, but it was soon," he said.

On his part, Musharraf deftly parried a question about whether Pakistan would have given up its backing of the Taliban if the reported threat had not come from then deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage as reported by CBS.

"I would like to, I am launching my book on the 25th, and I am honour-bound to Simon & Schuster not to comment on the book before that day," he said amid laughter.

"In other words, buy the book is what he's saying," remarked Bush.

However, the third actor in the drama, Armitage said that while he did not recall the exact words, he did have a straightforward talk with Musharraf to convey that after 9/11 "either you are with us or against us".

"What he was looking for was a friendly conversation, what he got was straightforward talk," he said.

CBS too stood by its story and said that its interview with Musharraf in which he had recalled Armitage's remark would be aired onSunday.

First Published: Sep 23, 2006 00:03 IST