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Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 01:04 GMT
Pakistan urges Clinton visit

Musharraf has not set dates for a return to civilian rule

Pakistan has described as "regrettable" the possibility that US President Bill Clinton might leave Islamabad out of regional tour next month.

Pakistan in crisis
A statement issued by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry read: "The absence of Pakistan from the president's itinerary would be regrettable. An opportunity to promote the objective of peace and stability in the region would be missed."

"We had let it be known that the visit would provide an opportunity to discuss Pakistan-US co-operation on matters of mutual interest," the statement went on.

An opportunity to promote the objective of peace and stability in the region would be missed
Pakistani Foreign Ministry
"Also, it would enable the president to realise his personal pledge to encourage an expeditious resumption and intensification of efforts in resolving all issues, including Kashmir, between Pakistan and India."

The US State Department has said that no final decision on Mr Clinton's visit to Pakistan has yet been made.

American displeasure

The US has repeatedly voiced displeasure at the military coup in Pakistan last October which brought General Pervez Musharraf to power.

In mid-January delegations from the United States and the UK visited Pakistan to press General Musharraf to set a timetable for the restoration of democracy.

General Musharraf has not set the dates for a return to civilian rule, though he has not discounted the possibility.

Analysts point out that there are other reasons why President Clinton might stay away from Pakistan.

Washington wants Islamabad to secure the expulsion of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan.

Pakistan has refused to use its influence to this end.

Improving US-Indian relations

President Clinton is due to begin his tour in Delhi on 20 March. He is expected to stay in India for five days, before making a one-day visit to Bangladesh.

Jimmy Carter: The last US president to visit India in 1978

Mr Clinton said in Washington on Tuesday that he was visiting India "because it is the biggest democracy in the world and I think we haven't been working with them enough.

"It is unfortunate that the US has been estranged, if not estranged at least had a distant relationship with India for too long," he said.

The last US president to visit India was Jimmy Carter in 1978.

Plans by President Clinton to visit South Asia were scrapped in 1998 after after tit-for-tat nuclear tests by India and Pakistan.

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See also:
01 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Clinton to visit India
13 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan pressed on democracy
13 Oct 99 |  UK
Cook warns army after Pakistan coup
11 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Ban on underwriting arms sales
19 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Can the army deliver?
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory

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