- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

LONDON — Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told British lawmakers in the House of Commons yesterday that U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq should hasten their departure by training local troops more quickly.

Gen. Musharraf said training Iraqi troops more quickly “will allow an exit strategy.”

The Pakistani leader opposed the U.S.- and British-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, but said his country is willing to consider helping train Iraqi soldiers.

Gen. Musharraf has said the world is less safe because of the Iraq war and because of the way that the U.S.-led war on terrorism is being conducted.

He declined yesterday to restate his views about the validity of the war to unseat Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but said the world needs to focus on Iraq’s current unrest and instability and the effect that it could have on the interim government in Baghdad.

“Abandoning them would create such instability that we won’t be able to handle it then,” he said.

Gen. Musharraf arrived in Britain Sunday after meeting with President Bush in Washington. After talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday, the two leaders agreed that terrorism needs to be tackled both through military action and by removing “root causes” such as poverty and political grievances.

Gen. Musharraf stressed during his visit in Britain, both alongside Mr. Blair and again yesterday before the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies, that the time was right to address deeper political problems that breed extremists.

“Palestine and Kashmir both are ripe for solving now,” he said.

“Failure is no longer an option,” he said. “For the sake of future generations and peace and harmony in the world today, we have to act and we have to solve the political disputes.”

The Pakistani president said his forces are stationed on the front line of the counterterrorism fight, with 20,000 soldiers in remote mountains battling remaining al Qaeda militants.

“We don’t know where Osama bin Laden is,” he told the audience at the London think tank, referring to the elusive al Qaeda leader, thought to be hiding on the lawless frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“We know he is alive, but we don’t know where he is.”



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