Bush lends Musharraf a helping hand

May 31st, 2008 - 5:40 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, May 31 (IANS) US President George Bush has telephoned embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and assured him of his full backing in his struggle to remain in power. “The president reiterated the United States’ strong support for Pakistan and he indicated he looked forward to President Musharraf’s continuing role in further strengthening US-Pakistani relations,” Dawn, in a despatch from Washington, Saturday quoted White House spokeswoman Dana Perino as saying.

“Diplomatic observers in Washington noted that Bush not only telephoned Musharraf but the White House also took the unusual step of announcing the details of this conversation,” Dawn noted.

“Usually, the White House lets the office of the leader who receives the call divulge its details to the media,” it added.

The White House said the conversation was a follow-up to Bush’s recent meeting in Egypt with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on the sidelines of a regional economic meeting.

Musharraf’s spokesman Maj. Gen. (retd) Rashid Qureshi said the conversation lasted about 25 minutes, during which Bush reiterated his country’s support for Pakistan and Musharraf.

Reports in the Pakistani media about a late-night meeting Wednesday between Musharraf and Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani have fuelled speculation that the army was urging him to resign.

There have been reports that a special aircraft has been stationed at the Chaklala airbase in the adjacent garrison town of Rawalpindi to fly Musharraf and his family out to a “friendly country”.

Musharraf dismissed the reports, declaring he had good relations with the institution he led till doffing his uniform last November. An army spokesman also denied the reports.

“The US media has noted that it was becoming increasingly difficult for Musharraf to hang on to power,” Dawn said.

“They pointed out that Musharraf’s future hung in the balance as he faced mounting pressure from his opponents to step down despite his controversial re-election to another five-year term in November,” it added.

Musharraf’s aides have for some weeks also been talking to leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that leads the country’s ruling coalition, the US media reported, noting that the party was in a position to help the president retain his office.

The Wall Street Journal has noted that the PPP has proposed constitutional amendments to curb Musharraf’s power but that it had declined so far to publicly join calls for his ouster.

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