Bush prods Musharraf to hold free polls
WASHINGTON (AP): U.S. President George W. Bush said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, his embattled war-on-terror partner, must hold free presidential elections, share intelligence and take ``swift action'' against terrorist leaders pinpointed in his country.
Bush, at a news conference, spent 45 minutes answering questions on an unusually broad set of issues. They ranged from Iran's role in Iraq, last week's bridge collapse in Minnesota, the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, a plunge in the home-mortgage market, the possible closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tax policy and accountability in his administration.
Musharraf is under growing U.S. pressure to crack down on militants along the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani leader is under considerable pressure at home, too, where his support is dwindling and violence is on the rise.
Aware of both Musharraf's fragile status and his value to Washington as an anti-terror ally, Bush dodged talking about unilateral U.S. military action inside Pakistan in favor of stressing U.S.-Pakistani cooperation.
``Am I confident that they will be brought to justice?'' the president said of terrorists. ``And my answer to you is: `Yes, I am confident.'''
At the same time, Bush took the rare step of telegraphing some of the demands he has made in private to Musharraf: ``full cooperation in sharing intelligence,'' ``swift action taken if there's actionable intelligence on high-value targets,'' and ``a free and fair election.''