Pakistan's President Musharraf to meet French counterpart Sarkozy

22nd January 2008, Comments 0 comments

President Pervez pledged in Brussels that elections next month in his crisis-ridden country will be free and fair

   Jan 22, 2008 (AFP) - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf prepared
for talks Tuesday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy after pledging in
Brussels that elections next month in his crisis-ridden country will be free
and fair.
   Musharraf, who arrived in Paris late Monday from the Belgian capital on the
second leg of a European tour, urged Europe to back, not criticise his regime
as it stood in the forefront of the fight against terrorism.
   "We are determined to hold free, fair and transparent elections, and
peaceful elections" on February 18, he said as he began a four-nation European
tour in Brussels.
   "Whoever wins, obviously power will be handed over to them," he added,
"there is no possibility of it being rigged."
   Musharraf came with economy and finance ministers in tow, but EU foreign
policy chief Javier Solana was cautious about the path of future cooperation.
   "The elections have to be fair, free and secure, which is also very
important," Solana said after the two men talked over lunch.
   "Our reaction on cooperation and the level of engagement will be in view of
the result of the process," he added.
   During an address at the European parliament later Musharraf called for
support not criticism.
   "Pakistan is in the forefront of fighting terrorism, so help us instead of
criticising us," he urged during an audience with the parliament's foreign
affairs committee.
   Pakistan is in a political crisis exacerbated by the assassination last
month of opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, which
sparked violence and led to the general election being postponed.
   Musharraf bluntly rejected any accusation that the Pakistan authorities
were involved in the killing.
   "Such conspiracy theories are trash," he told the committee, "Pakistan is
not a banana republic."
   The Pakistani president said that Islamist tribal leader and warlord
Baitullah Mehsud had "targeted Benazir Bhutto, and also more suicide bombings
are down to this man".
   Speaking earlier at a breakfast meeting with journalists, NGOs and business
leaders, he spoke of an "obsession" with democracy in the West.
   "You have taken centuries to reach where you have come. Allow us time for
going for the value that you have reached for yourself," he asked.
   Musharraf acknowledged tensions in Pakistan which could prompt those who
lose the elections to cry foul, but he underlined: "Whatever bugs we have had
in the system have been removed."
   NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who also held talks with
Musharraf, said the Pakistani leader was "part of the solution and certainly
not part of the problem".
   "We are fighting the same terrorists that are trying to destabilise
Afghanistan and Pakistan," he added.
   On the US-led "War on Terror" Musharraf admitted that it was a "very, very
tough fight" but added "we are on the winning side" against Al-Qaeda.
   "When we attack them now we see only a few of them in all the targets that
we attack," he said.
   However, on a trip aimed at drumming up economic and political support, he
stressed that foreigners and foreign companies were not the target of violence
in his country.
   From France Musharraf will continue his eight-day European tour by
attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, before his final leg
in London.


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