Mon, Sep 19, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Musharraf reaches out to US Jews

DIALOGUE Pakistan's president became the first leader of a Muslim nation with no diplomatic ties with Israel to meet with a group of US Jewish leaders

AFP , NEW YORK

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf held unprecedented talks with US Jewish leaders, saying an anticipated resolution to the Palestinian question would revive the historical ties between Islam and Judaism.

Musharraf, pressing his campaign for moderation in the Muslim world, became the first leader of a Muslim nation with no diplomatic relations with Israel to hold a public dialogue with Jewish leaders, officials of the Council for World Jewry said.

The Pakistani military general was given a standing ovation as he arrived late on Saturday.

"I cannot imagine that a Muslim and that too a Pakistani and more than that a man in uniform would ever get such a warm reception and such an applause from the Jewish community," Musharraf said, as he gave a military salute to the audience, which included Pakistani Americans.

Noting that the thorny Kashmir and Palestinian disputes are ripe for resolution, he said, "We ought to put our collective weight behind a push for their final solution.

"I am convinced that peace in Palestine that does justice to both the Israelis and the Palestinians will bring to a close the sad chapter in the history of the Middle East [and] will revive the historical ties between Islam and Judaism," he said.

As the peace process progressed toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Musharraf said, Pakistan "will take further steps toward normalization and cooperation, looking to full diplomatic relations" with Israel.

Jack Rosen, the chairman of the American Jewish Congress, described the function as "an unprecedented evening."

It resulted from two years of secret talks, culminating with a meeting between congress leaders and Musharraf in Islamabad.

"President Musharraf's decision to be with us tonight is an act of individual courage, leadership and vision," said Rohen, who is also chairman of the Council for World Jewry, which includes the US, French and Russian chapters of the Jewish community.

Sharing the dais with Musharraf was senior US legislator Tom Lantos, a 77-year-old Hungarian Jew who, as a teenager, resisted the Nazis and then narrowly escaped the Holocaust.

Lantos told Musharraf that at a time "when the civilized world is engaged in a global war against extremist Islamic terrorism, you have emerged as the quintessential Muslim leader of moderation, decency, reason and acceptance of pluralism."

The Pakistani leader took "considerable political risk" by addressing a major Jewish organization in New York, he said.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, is a key US ally in its "war on terror" and has repeatedly spoken out against extremism in the Muslim world. He twice escaped assassination.

Last year, he unveiled his so-called "enlightened moderation" doctrine encouraging Muslims to embrace pluralism, openness and tolerance.

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