Wed, Aug 08, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Karzai, Bush hope for more from Pakistan

DIVERGENCES One day after the Afghan president called Iran a 'helper' in its battle against extremism, the US president said that Tehran is, in fact, 'not a force for good'

AFP , CAMP DAVID, MARYLAND

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President George W. Bush shared the opinion that Pakistan must help quell deadly violence in Afghanistan, but broke sharply on Iranian influence there.

The two leaders, wrapping up two days of talks at the presidential retreat 112km outside Washington on Monday, said they hoped for improved cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan after talks in Kabul that are due to start tomorrow.

The White House warned that the two leaders had agreed that there would be no concessions to win the freedom of 21 South Korean hostages held by the Taliban Islamist militia driven from power in 2001 by US-led forces.

One day after Karzai called the Islamic republic "a helper" against extremists, Bush blasted the government in Tehran as "not a force for good" and vowed to pursue efforts to isolate Iran over its suspect nuclear program.

"We will continue to work to isolate it because they're not a force for good as far as we can see, they're a destabilizing influence wherever they are," Bush said at a joint news conference with Karzai, who did not mention Iran.

"I hope very much that this jirga [assembly] will bring to us what we need, which I think it will," said Karzai. "Our enemy is still there, defeated but still hiding in the mountains. And our duty is to complete the job."

The US president said the assembly would focus on "how we can work together -- how you can work together -- to achieve common solutions to problems. And the main problem is to fight extremism."

US officials have been increasing pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on Taliban extremists and al-Qaeda members targeting Karzai's government from bases inside Pakistan's remote tribal areas.

While the Taliban still pose a threat to Afghan civilians, Karzai insisted that the Islamic militant group has been defeated.

"They are not posing any threat to the government of Afghanistan, they are not posing any threat to the institutions of Afghanistan, or to the build-up of institutions of Afghanistan," he said.

"It's a force that's defeated; it's a force that is frustrated; it's a force that is acting in cowardice by killing children going to school," he said.

Karzai and Musharraf are due to address a meeting in Kabul tomorrow of 700 tribal elders and other influential figures from both countries to try to find ways to address the insurgency.

Bush, sidestepping a question that has been roiling the race to succeed him, declined to spell out whether he would seek Pakistan's permission to strike at extremists inside its borders if he had "actionable intelligence."

"I'm confident that with actionable intelligence we will be able to bring top al-Qaeda to justice," he said. "We're in constant communications with the Pakistan government."

Pakistan has denounced US warnings -- including from Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, but also from top Bush aides -- of possible strikes at extremists inside its territory without permission.

Speaking on CNN on Monday, the Pakistani ambassador to the US stressed his country's commitment to going after the Taliban in the tribal areas and the need for cooperation on the issue.

"We need to sit down like grown-ups, Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan, and not blame each other," he said. "We need to ... be straight with each other. And that's how we're going to control and defeat extremism."

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