WASHINGTON, Oct 1: Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali had his first meeting with US President George W. Bush at the White House on Wednesday and pledged to fight terrorism jointly.

“Pakistan has been reciprocal as far as the fight against terrorism is concerned,” said Mr Jamali while responding to Mr Bush’s welcoming remarks.

In his brief remarks, President Bush spoke of “the mutual desire (of Pakistan and the United States) to fight terror” and “to bring stability and peace throughout the world.”

He said his talks with Mr Jamali focused on bilateral relations “in regard to commerce and opportunities to enhance the livelihood of our fellow citizens.”

Mr Bush said that the prime minister’s visit gives him “a chance to say publicly how much we appreciate the friendship of Pakistan.”

“We want a long-lasting friendship with the United States,” responded Mr Jamali. He said he had brought with him “a message” of the new democratic setup established in Pakistan about 10 months ago.

Mr Jamali said his government intended to further the cause of democracy in Pakistan “with a pat on the back from President Bush.”

The two leaders held the first round of talks in the Oval Office and then had a working lunch where they discussed “a wide range of issues,” as Mr Bush said.

Earlier, Mr Bush’s press secretary, Scott McClellan, told reporters that the situation in Kashmir and efforts to stabilize Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan were top on the agenda for the Bush-Jamali meeting.

“They will continue to discuss cooperation in the war on terrorism, including cooperation in fighting terror on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area,” said the White House spokesman.

The two leaders were also discussing “regional issues, such as Kashmir,” he added.

President Bush emphasized “the need for dialogue between India and Pakistan,” said Mr McClellan.

In a separate briefing State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters that the relationship with Pakistan was very important to the United States and it wants this relationship to “continue to work and develop.”

The United States, he said, was working with Pakistan to make sure that “we’re all doing everything we can to track down and eliminate the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaida operatives that may be in that area.”

“The United States is (also) working with both India and Pakistan to look at some of the issues between them, and to encourage them to start engaging in discussions themselves to resolve these issues. And that’s a continuing issue that we work with the parties and raise with the parties,” he added.

Mr Boucher reminded a questioner that President Musharraf had made commitments to end the cross-border activity in Kashmir and this pledge “remains very important to us, and remains a subject of continuing discussion with the Pakistani government as they try to achieve that goal.”

He said the United States also “participates in the tripartite talks” over the remnants of Taliban and Al Qaida hiding along the Pakistan-Afghan border. This, he said, was a continuing problem for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The tripartite committee comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States, he said, “has been successful in coordinating the activities of all the parties in the border area.”

Responding to another question, Mr Boucher said he didn’t know specifically where those schools were located that were training new recruits for the Taliban “but I’m sure that’s the kind of subject that we would take up in our tripartite discussions with both parties.”

He said US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who left for Pakistan on Wednesday, will discuss these issues with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts.

In Afghanistan, Mr Armitage will reinforce the US commitment to a secure Afghanistan, and express Washington’s support for full implementation of the Bonn Agreement.

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