Bush: Musharraf Is 'Man of His Word'

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By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; 6:09 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Tuesday that it will be hard for him to argue that Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is still trying to advance democracy if he doesn't lift emergency rule before the elections.

Bush said the embattled Pakistani leader has been a loyal U.S. ally in fighting terrorists, has vowed to step down as head of the military and has promised to hold parliamentary elections. The president, in an interview at Camp David with ABC's "World News," also noted that Musharraf freed thousands of opponents from jails Tuesday in a sign he is rolling back a wave of repression under emergency rule he declared on Nov. 3.

"So far, I've found him to be a man of his word," Bush said. "The fundamental question I have for President Musharraf is, 'Will these elections be under emergency rule or law?' Because if they are, it's going to be hard for _ well, it'll be hard for those of us who have belief that he's advanced Pakistan's democracy to say that's, that's still the case."

On the home front, Bush declined to speculate on who will be the Republican presidential nominee, but he said New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was a "very formidable" Democratic candidate. Bush said Clinton's experience as first lady means she understands the pressures of public life and knows how to maneuver under the "klieg lights."

But he stressed, "I do believe our candidate will beat her, if she happens to be the nominee."

Bush also said that he thought it was "odd foreign policy" when he heard that Democrat Barack Obama thinks it's a disgrace that the U.S. won't hold talks with Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

Asked if his years in the Oval Office were wearing on him, first lady Laura Bush replied, "Sure."

Both she and the president said the strains of the job have brought them together.

"It depends on the strength of the marriage," Bush said. "A weak marriage'll be torn apart by the pressures, I would suspect. A strong marriage gets stronger."

On another personal note, the Bushes said their daughter Jenna has not yet decided whether she will get married at the White House to her longtime boyfriend, Henry Hager, who proposed in August.

Hager asked Bush one day at Camp David if he could marry his daughter.

Bush said Hager gave a very "adept presentation."

The president joked that he made the young man sweat a bit, but Mrs. Bush quickly jumped in, saying the president gave his approval even before Hager had a chance to say what he wanted to say.

"George just said, 'Oh, OK,'" Mrs. Bush said.

"No, I actually said, 'You got a deal,'" Bush said.


© 2007 The Associated Press

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