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Remarks Following Discussions With President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and an Exchange With Reporters

December 04, 2004

President Bush. It's my honor to welcome a friend, a leader, President Musharraf of Pakistan. He is a person with whom I've worked very closely over the past 4 years, a person with whom I look forward to working closely over the next 4 years. And we had a really good discussion.

We discussed international politics. I assured President Musharraf that there is an opportunity at hand to work toward the development of a Palestinian state and peace in the Middle East. I told him that this will be a priority of my administration. The goal is two states living side by side in peace and security.

We spent time talking about our bilateral relations. We reviewed the relationship between India and Pakistan. He has showed great courage in that relationship, leading toward what we hope will be a peaceful solution of what has been a historically difficult problem.

We talked about our own bilateral relations. The President and I are absolutely committed to fighting off the terrorists who would destroy life in Pakistan or the United States or anywhere else. And I appreciate very much your clear vision of the need for people of good will and hope to prevail over those who are willing to inflict death in order to achieve an ideology that is— the predominance of an ideology that is just backward and dark in its view.

I—we talked about commerce between our countries. The President is very concerned about whether or not Pakistan goods are being treated equally, as fairly as other goods coming into the United States. I listened very carefully to what he had to say. He had some constructive ideas as to how to deal with that situation.

Having brought up his economy, however, I reminded him that he's doing quite a good job of making sure that the economy grows in Pakistan so that people have got a chance to realize their dreams. And I congratulate you on the good stewardship of the Pakistan economy.

All in all, our relationships are good; they're strong; and they will remain that way. And I'm honored you're here.

President Musharraf. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I don't have much to add to what the President has already said. We had a very wholesome interaction. And all that I would like to say, that I've come here basically to congratulate the President very sincerely, with all my sincerity, for having won the elections. And he does me an honor by receiving me on a Saturday. [Laughter]

And therefore, the other issues that we discussed were incidental and all the important issues—the most important issue, a resolution of the Palestinian dispute, in the interest of peace in the whole world, and I would repeat whatever the President has already said: Enhancement of our bilateral relations, enhancement of our commercial ties with the United States.

I'm grateful for the extreme understanding that the President has shown towards the concerns of Pakistan.

Thank you.

President Bush. Welcome. Welcome.

We'll answer a question from the American side, and the Pakistani side, and the American side, and Pakistani side. And that will be it, in the spirit of Saturday morning meetings. And so the first person that will be asking the question will be Mr. Mark Knoller [CBS Radio].

Homeland Security

Q. Thank you. Mr. President, what do you make of the warning sounded yesterday by Tommy Thompson that the American food supply may be at risk to terrorist attack?

President Bush. Tommy was commenting on the fact that we're a large company— country, with all kinds of avenues where somebody can inflict harm. And we're doing everything we can to protect the American people. I picked a good man to head the Homeland Security Department in Bernie Kerik. I hope the Senate confirms him quickly so he can get to work. There's a lot of work to be done. We've made a lot of progress in protecting our country, and there's more work to be done. And this administration is committed to doing it.

Q. Mr. President—— President Bush. Do you want to call on somebody?

President Musharraf. I know that—I know that you're trying your best to address the issue of terrorism all over the world, and obviously, the most important part is to protect your own, the United States, from terrorism.

President Bush. Actually, I wasn't asking you necessarily to answer the question; I was asking you to call on somebody from the Pakistani press, I'm sorry. [Laughter] You don't have to answer every question they ask me. I would advise you not answering those questions. [Laughter]

Pakistan-U.S. Relations

Q. Mr. President, the public perception in Pakistan is that Pakistan is doing much more, deeper cooperation, and doing more favors to the United States than Pakistan is getting anything in return. What is your comment, and what is the room for Pak-U.S. relations during your next term?

President Bush. Well, first of all, I don't view relations as, one, that there's a scorecard that says, you know, "Well, if we all fight terror together, therefore, somebody owes somebody something." This is a world in which cooperation is essential, and mutual cooperation is really essential between Pakistan and the United States.

Obviously, there's ways to strengthen our bilateral relations. The President and I are constantly discussing ways to do so. After all, he is the strongest advocate for the Pakistan people I have ever met. His duty is to represent Pakistan, and so, therefore, we talk about ways to enhance trade. Trade between the United States and Pakistan is good. It can be better, and we discussed ways to enhance that.

But our cooperation has been very strong. But let me just say something. Friends don't sit there and have a scorecard that says, "Well, he did this," or "He did that, and therefore, somebody is—there's a deficit." Our relationship is much bigger than that. Our relationship is one where we work closely together for the common good of our own people and for the common good of the world.

Jennifer [Jennifer Loven, Associated Press].

President Musharraf's Role in the War on Terror

Q. Thank you, sir. You've talked repeatedly about how pleased you've been with President Musharraf's cooperation in the arrest of Al Qaida suspects. But are you not disappointed that his army has somewhat downgraded the search for Usama bin Laden?

President Bush. Quite the contrary. His army has been incredibly active and very brave in southern Waziristan, flushing out an enemy that had thought they had found safe haven. His army has suffered casualty, and for that, we want to thank their loved ones for the sacrifice that their family has made.

The President has been a determined leader to bring to justice not only people like Usama bin Laden but to bring to justice those who would inflict harm and pain on his own people. Remember, this is a man whose life had been threatened by and still is threatened by Al Qaida leadership. He's the person who survived two direct assassination attempts. And there is nobody more dedicated than—in the protection of his own people than President Musharraf.

And I am very pleased with his efforts and his focused efforts, and our discussions today were to determine how best we can help the President achieve his objective and—which is not only protect himself but protect his country.

Pakistan-U.S. Relations/Pakistan's Role in the Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, it's determined that you have a long vision, long-term vision between Pakistan and the United States. How would you define it, and how do you see it in the days to come?

President Bush. I think the long-term vision is one that is a relationship which is very mature in this sense: that there is a commercial relationship which is fair and balanced, mutually beneficial to both people; a defense relationship which is one in which there is close collaboration and complementary efforts based upon the true threats of the 21st century; and thirdly, there's a relationship in which I can call upon my friend to help deal with international issues such as the development of a Palestinian state, one in which the aspirations of the Palestinian people are met and listened to because democracy has taken hold.

One of the interesting lessons that the world can look at is Pakistan. You see, there are some in the world who do not believe that a Muslim society can self-govern. Some believe that the only solution for government in parts of the world is for there to be tyranny or despotism. I don't believe that. The Pakistan people have proven that those cynics are wrong. And where President Musharraf can help in world peace is to help remind people what is possible. And the solution in the Middle East is for there to be a world effort to help the Palestinians develop a state that is truly free, one that's got an independent judiciary, one that's got a civil society, one that's got the capacity to fight off the terrorists, one that allows for dissent, one in which people can vote. And President Musharraf can play a big role in helping achieve that objective.

None of us can convince the Palestinians to say—or make the Palestinians adhere to this point of view, but we can help convince them. And that's precisely what I intend to do. And as a Palestinian state evolves there will be much more confidence, and when that happens, peace is more likely to happen.

And I look forward to working with this world leader on that important issue.

Thank you all for taking time out of your weekend. I know it's been a disappointment for you to have to work on Saturday, but—[laughter]—the press. But nevertheless——

President Musharraf. Because of me. [Laughter]

President Bush. ——the President and I are thrilled you're here.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:50 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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