WASHINGTON, Feb 26: The White House on Monday refused to describe the message Vice-President Dick Cheney brought with him to Pakistan as `tough’ but also refused to answer questions about the possibility that the new Democrat-controlled Congress could cut US aid to Islamabad if it failed to curb militant activities in tribal areas.

“I'll let others characterise. We have not been saying it's a tough message,” said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow when asked to define the message Mr Cheney conveyed to President Musharraf at a meeting in Islamabad earlier Monday.

“What we're saying is ... the vice-president is meeting with President Musharraf because we do understand the importance of making even greater progress against Al Qaeda, against the Taliban,” he said.

The White House press secretary said he was also not going to “talk about the tone, tenor or precise content” of what the vice-president had to say to President Musharraf.

“When you engage in conversations with sovereign heads of state in situations like that, you do it on a confidential basis, knowing that you're going to be able to have the benefit of full honesty, and at the same time you're going to be more constructive in working together,” he said.

When another reporter asked if President Bush was satisfied with President Musharraf’s efforts in the war on terror, Mr Snow said: “I think the appropriate question is, is he doing what he can? Is he committed to winning? And the answer is yes.”

He then added: As long as you have terrorists at large in the world, the president's not going to be satisfied and I dare say that President Musharraf is not satisfied.”

Mr Snow was also asked if the US military was prepared to take direct action in Pakistan’s tribal territory against Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents, to which he said: “I would let military officials answer a question like that.”

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