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Leaders say Pakistan-U.S. ties still strong

Talks cordial despite Pakistan's scaling back hunt for bin Laden

Presidents Pervez Musharraf and George W. Bush pronounce their relationship "strong."
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CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports on Bush's meeting with Musharraf.
Pervez Musharraf
President Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Presidents George W. Bush of the United States and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan met in a rare Saturday Oval Office meeting where he emphasized that ties between their nations remain strong, despite Islamabad's decision to scale back its search for Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan has been a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism and the hunt for bin Laden. But it recently announced it is cutting back forces from its side of the Pakistani-Afghan border, where the search for the al Qaeda leader has been concentrated.

""We discussed terrorism in its entire complexity," Gen. Musharraf said after the brief meeting. "And within that, hunting every terrorist was discussed, of course. The operations against terrorists in Pakistan on our borders was discussed."

But he said that in the brief meeting, he and Bush did not "get into details of what are tactical issues, problems that confront whatever we haven't achieved."

Musharraf said he thought the get-together "was an extremely positive meeting."

"All in all, our relationships are good, they're strong, and they will remain that way," said Bush, adding that he and Musharraf "are absolutely committed to fighting off the terrorists who would destroy life in Pakistan, or the United States, or anywhere else."

In addition to terrorism, al Qaeda and bin Laden, Musharraf said, he and Bush discussed bilateral concerns, Indian-Pakistani relations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Agreement on Palestinian state

Specifically, he said the two spoke about the creation of a Palestinian state and the resolution of the longstanding conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Bush said he had "assured President Musharraf that there is an opportunity at hand to work toward the development of a Palestinian state and peace in the Middle East. I told him that this will be a priority of my administration. The goal is two states living side-by-side in peace and security."

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, we are very clear that we believe in the right of Palestinians and the Israelis to have their own state," Musharraf said. "Within that, whatever Pakistan or whatever I can do, I will contribute."

Asked about relations with India, Musharraf appeared confident of a turn for the better. India and Pakistan have been engaged in a long and bloody struggle over control of the state of Kashmir.

"I think we are moving well on the issue of confidence-building measures and also of the dialogue process toward the resolution of disputes. We hope we will move forward in all resolution of all disputes and the core dispute happens to be Kashmir."

Bush said Musharraf has shown "great courage" in the India-Pakistan relationship "leading toward what we hope will be a peaceful solution of what has been a historically difficult problem."

Pakistan wants the United States to clear the way to allow it to purchase F-16s, anti-tank missiles and other weapons, seen as a reward for its cooperation in the war on terror. It also wants Bush to get more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Musharraf said the F-16 issue was discussed, but didn't elaborate.

Bush said both men talked about commerce between the United States and Pakistan and Musharraf's concern "about whether or not Pakistan goods are being treated equally fairly as other goods coming into the United States."

"I listened very carefully to what he had to say. He had some constructive ideas as to how to deal with that situation," Bush said.

Musharraf was to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell later Saturday.

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