Pakistani leader warns US ties deteriorating at end of SE Asian tour
BANGKOK, April 3 (AFP) - Pakistan's military leader General Pervez Musharraf on Monday warned Washington and Islamabad were edging further apart on dangerous issues.
In Thailand on the last leg of a tour of Southeast Asia, Musharraf said the United States and Pakistan remained deeply divided on key "issues of concern ... and tension" including Kashmir, terrorism, nuclear weapons and Islamabad's relations with Afghanistan.
"I'm bothered about what Pakistan's relationship with the United States is, the substance of that," said Musharraf, a week after President Bill Clinton ended a tour of South Asia.
On his tour, Clinton spent five days in India but only six hours in Pakistan, a traditional US ally and former major recipient of US aid, leading some commentators to point to a shift in Washington's South Asia policy towards New Delhi.
While in Pakistan, Clinton delivered an uncompromising address on Pakistani television after meeting Musharraf, calling for a restoration of democracy and stressing that Washington would not mediate in the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India.
Musharraf emerged as Pakistan's new leader after a military coup in October.
In Thailand, as he had done throughout his tour, Musharraf lambasted India, accusing it of sabotaging attempts to improve regional security.
Although Pakistan was committed to a South Asian regional summit, "the idea was scuttled by India, and that's a pity. It was a chance to have some sort of dialogue," Musharraf said.
"Whatever happens in India, they find it convenient to blame it on Pakistan."
Pakistan and India have been bitter enemies since their partition and independence in 1947, fighting three wars, two over the disputed region of Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Musharraf's Thai hosts urged Pakistan to improve its relations with regional and international powers and address post-coup concerns at home.
Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai told Musharraf in a meeting that he was very concerned at political developments in Pakistan since the military seized power.
"As leader of a democratic country, Prime Minister Chuan expressed concern at the situation in Pakistan," said government spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart.
Chuan told the general that Thailand wanted to see Pakistan develop along the lines of other Asian democracies.
Musharraf promised that Pakistan would "return to democracy, the essence of democracy," but refused to set a timetable.
Chuan also told his guest that Thailand was increasingly concerned at rising tensions on the subcontinent which some experts fear could trigger a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan.
"As an Asian country, Thailand is concerned over the tension between India and Pakistan," said Akapol.
"As a neutral country and friend of both, Thailand wants the problem is to be solved soon, particularly the conflict over Kashmir," he said.
Musharraf's Southeast Asia trip, which included stops in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei, was designed to drum up trade links and to ease Pakistan's bleak economic fortunes.
The general said he was pleased with the "understanding" his tour had created between Pakistan and Southeast Asia.
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