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Bush hosts feuding Musharraf, Karzai at dinner
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 28, 2006 08:20 IST
In a brief Rose Garden ceremony with both leaders by his side before ushering them into the Old Family Dining Room for dinner, where they were joined by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Bush said, "These two men are personal friends of mine; they are strong leaders who have a understanding of the world in which we live; they understand that the forces of moderation are being challenged by extremists and radicals."
"And we're working closely together to help improve the lives of the people in Afghanistan and the people in Pakistan," he said.
Bush acknowledged that "we've got a lot of challenges facing us," and said, "All of us must protect our countries, but at the same time, we must work to make the world a more hopeful place."
"And so today's dinner is a chance for us to strategise together, to talk about the need to cooperate, to make sure that people have got a hopeful future," he added.
Reiterating the case he made both in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week and in response to a question during his joint news conference with Musharraf at the White House last Friday denying that the US-led war on terror was a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam, Bush asserted that "it's very important for the people in Pakistan and Afghanistan to understand that America respects religion, and we respect the right for people to worship the way they see fit."
Although he did not mention that he was having two Muslim leaders representating Islamic countries over for an Iftar dinner during the month of Ramzan, Bush noted, "We welcome Muslim leaders here in the White House. I look forward to having dinner with friends of mine who don't happen to share the same faith I do, but nevertheless share the same outlook for a hopeful world."
"As we work for a more hopeful world," he said, "we will continue to make sure that extremists, such as Osama bin Laden, that wants to hurt my friend here (Musharraf), as well as upset the democracy in Afghanistan, is brought to justice."
Without nary a mention of the disputes that each leader has been blaming the other for, Bush said, "The main thing I was looking forward to talking about is how the United States government and the people of the United States can help these two countries provide a foundation for hope."
Then turning first to the older Musharraf, he said, "We are proud to have you here, Mr President," and then turning to the younger Karzai, he said, "Proud to have to here, Mr President," and then without taking any questions, closed with the words, "Let's go eat dinner."
During his joint news conference with Karzai on Tuesday, Bush had teased that he would be checking for "body language" during Wednesday's dinner, but obviously there was more than an element of truth in that mediating the feud between both leaders was the top priority on the menu. Officials said the president would be looking for some kind of agreement from Musharraf and Karzai on a general strategic direction that fighting the Taliban is paramount.