Bush to Visit India, Pakistan On March Trip

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

President Bush announced yesterday that he will travel to India and Pakistan in March in a visit likely to be dominated by discussions of terrorism, democratic governance and the recent U.S. airstrikes in Pakistani territory.

Bush met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at the White House yesterday to discuss the U.S.-Pakistan alliance and the strikes that killed at least 13 people, including women and children.

The strikes, which U.S. officials said were aimed at suspected al Qaeda terrorists, provoked anti-American protests in Pakistan, a key U.S. ally enlisted by the Bush administration after Sept. 11, 2001, to hunt down terrorists, especially along the border with Afghanistan. Aziz, who kicked off his U.S. visit by condemning the attacks, struck a decidedly more diplomatic tone before and after meeting with Bush yesterday, highlighting the economic and military ties between the two nations.

It is unclear whether the strikes killed any al Qaeda members in a region where Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, speaking in Oslo, said yesterday there is "an indication" al Qaeda terrorists may have been killed. "These foreigners are there, and we need to eliminate these foreigners," Musharraf said after a speech at the Nobel Institute.

In brief comments to reporters, Bush did not address the airstrikes. "I want to thank the prime minister and thank the president for working closely with us on a variety of issues," the president said. "We're working closely to defeat the terrorists who would like to harm America and harm Pakistan."

-- Jim VandeHei

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