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Musharraf: Make campaign short

Musharraf arriving at Blair's London office on Thursday
Musharraf arriving at Blair's London office on Thursday  

LONDON, England -- Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf has called for a "short and targeted military campaign" against the Taliban following talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He also called for the Western allies to be "sensitive" in their military offensive to the holy month of Ramadan, which begins on November 17.

"One would hope that the military operation comes to an end as fast as possible before the month of Ramadan," he told a joint news conference with Blair at No.10 Downing Street.

"Beyond that I would like to say that the sensitivities of the month of Ramadan have to be considered in the decisions of the military campaign."

The Pakistani president stressed, however, that his country would remain part of the international coalition against terrorism until its strategic objectives were attained.

Musharraf, who is on his way to Washington to meet U.S. President George W. Bush, faces tension at home, where a general strike and day of protest has been called for Friday by Islamic groups unhappy with the country's support of military strikes on Afghanistan.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was host to Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf and King Abdullah of Jordan. CNN's Robin Oakley reports (November 8)

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As a stalemate develops in northern Afghanistan, UN relief workers stockpile food in Uzbekistan. CNN's Matthew Chance reports (November 8)

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At a stopover in Paris earlier, Musharraf had been more direct, saying continuing military action during Ramadan would have "a negative fall-out in the entire Muslim world."

Blair told the joint n ews conference: "We want this campaign brought to a conclusion as swiftly as possible, but it has to be a successful campaign, in other words with the attainment of our objective.

"Of course, we have to be aware of the sensitivities of Ramadan. We are aware of the sensitivities of Ramadan.

"The Taliban will fight during that time and therefore we must take account as we pursue our campaign of those sensitivities.

"But, in the end, I think everyone understands that the campaign must continue ultimately until the objectives are secured."

The Pakistan president said he and the British PM had total unanimity of mind as far as terrorism, action against terrorism and addressing the situation in Afghanistan were concerned.

Blair agreed with Musharraf when he said what was required most of all to shorten the campaign against the Taliban was accurate intelligence.

Pakistan's support for the action against the Taliban has been crucial and the Western allies have feared Musharraf's demand for a halt to airstrikes could be taken up by other Muslim and Arab leaders.

CNN's Robin Oakley says however that Musharraf did not repeat his call for a halt to airstrikes in a speech to British parliamentarians before he met Blair -- it only emerged in questions afterwards.

Oakley said the Pakistan leader appeared to have accepted a bombing pause as a lost cause and he was concentrating on other elements of his mission, including obtaining more aid for Pakistan.

Before leaving Pakistan for Britain, the general promised to press the case for a pause when he meets Bush in New York this weekend.

Blair received more wholehearted support in a visit from Jordan's King Abdullah on Thursday, an Arab leader prepared to publicly back action during Ramadan.

He said that the airstrikes should end as quickly as possible but that first military objectives has to be achieved.

"We can't always have things the way we like it," said the king at a joint press conference with Blair.

During his visit to Downing Street the king praised the British prime minister's prominent role in the U.S.-led coalition.

"We have been particularly proud of your efforts on your travels throughout the Middle East and the Arab world to clarify the West's position that this is not a struggle between the West and Islam," he said.

"What we are facing is those that have hijacked Islam for their own destructive ends.

"This is a battle not between moderate Muslims and extremist Muslims because there is no such thing as moderate Muslims -- there is Islam and there are the extremists that hijacked this religion."

Meanwhile, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown ordered the freezing of assets belonging to 46 organisations and 16 individuals suspected of links with international terrorism.

The people and bodies on the list, the UK Treasury said, are believed to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, or of providing material support for, acts of terrorism.

They are based on the Middle East, the United States, Africa, Sweden, Canada, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Liechtenstein.

Brown said: "This list is a result of further intelligence sharing and co-ordination between the UK, U.S. other international allies."

Earlier in Paris Musharraf was praised for his "courageous" stand on Afghanistan while facing unrest at home.

President Jacques Chirac's spokeswoman said the Pakistan leader was told: "Pakistan has made a courageous choice and we realise the effort this represents.

Chirac added that France would support "a generous treatment for Pakistan's huge debt in the Club of Paris," the group of Western creditors next due to meet in December to review the country's foreign debt situation.


• 10 Downing Street
• Pakistan president
• Pakistan government

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