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U.S. Vice President Makes Surprise Visit To Pakistan

February 26, 2007 -- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced visit today to Pakistan, where he went straight into security-related talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Cheney reportedly went to Islamabad to press for greater Pakistani help in combating a new Taliban offensive in Afghanistan and a resurgent Al-Qaeda.

Reuters quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying that Cheney "asked President Musharraf that Pakistan should do more." The source said that "Cheney...appreciated Pakistan's efforts and steps being taken to combat terrorism."

The same official said Musharraf "made it clear to Cheney that Pakistan is doing its best and [that] militancy and violence are Afghanistan's problems and their roots are there, not in Pakistan," Reuters reported.

AFP quoted an official Pakistani statement saying voiced "apprehensions" regarding the apparent regrouping of Al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's tribal areas, along with "serious U.S. concerns" of signs of a looming spring offensive by the Taliban.

Cheney was also expected to discuss Musharraf's efforts to muster a response from Muslim states to instability in the Middle East.

"The New York Times" reported today that U.S. President George W. Bush wants to send a tough message to Musharraf, warning him that Congress could cut aid to Pakistan unless its forces more aggressively hunt Al-Qaeda.

It was unclear if Cheney joined the same talks held earlier today between Musharraf and visiting British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

Musharraf, whose country is the world's second-largest with a Muslim majority, has recently sought a more prominent role in trying to bring greater "harmony" among Muslims.

(Reuters, AFP)

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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