Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told the United Nations Wednesday his government will do everything it can to prevent terrorists operating from Pakistan from disrupting next month's elections in neighboring Afghanistan.
Bush administration officials have given a mixed picture of Pakistan's role in policing the border region, saying it has been effective against members of the al-Qaida terrorist organization, but less so in stopping cross-border forays by remnants of Afghanistan's Taleban regime.
In a U.N. General Assembly address that followed a morning meeting with President Bush, Mr. Musharraf said the October 9th presidential election in Afghanistan will be an important landmark in that country's progress toward democracy and stability. He said Pakistan will do all it can to see that the process succeeds, but that Afghanistan must also act to bolster its own security:
Mr. Musharraf said "Pakistan will do all it can to prevent terrorists from using our territory to disrupt the Afghan election process. The subsequent parliamentary elections in April 2005 would also augur well for self governance in Afghanistan. While the political channel is progressing well and we wish President Karzai all success, the process of rebuilding the Afghan national army and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan needs to be accelerated to install durable peace in Afghanistan."
Mr. Musharraf spent about an hour in a private hotel meeting with President Bush Wednesday morning that ended Mr. Bush's diplomatic schedule in New York.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who took part in the talks, told reporters later that the Pakistani army and security forces are doing quite a lot in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden among others may be hiding:
Mr. Powell said, "President Musharraf is fully aware of our desire to see him brought to justice, and a number of other people who are in those tribal areas. So we encouraged President Musharraf to continue to go after al-Qaida elements that may be operating in the border area, as well as and perhaps even more importantly, Taleban elements that might be operating in the tribal area. What we want to do is create a safe environment inside Afghanistan for the upcoming elections on the 9th of October, and that was a principal point of discussion with President Musharraf."
In his U.N. address, President Musharraf said he believes Pakistan and India can resolve all their differences, including the long-running conflict of Kashmir, through a sincere dialogue. The Pakistani leader, who is due to hold his first meeting with India's new Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New York Friday, called it the moment for peace, and said the opportunity must not be allowed to slip away.
Mr. Musharraf also urged the western industrial powers to support a renaissance for Islamic moderates through enhanced economic opportunities and the settlement of international disputes affecting Muslims. He said such action must be taken before, as he put it, an iron curtain descends between the West and the Islamic world.
In particular, he urged action on the Palestinian issue, which he described as an open wound inflicted on the psyche of every Muslim. He said Pakistan recognizes Israel's right to exist, but also the Palestinians' right to their own homeland. He said the international Quartet on the Middle East, and in particular the United States, have a major responsibility for pursuing peace in the Middle East, and said success in those efforts is no longer an option.