World

Bush hosts Karzai, Musharraf

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai broke bread in Washington on Wednesday night, but there was no immediate word if they broke new ground.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai broke bread in Washington on Wednesday night, but there was no immediate word if they broke new ground in their sometimes fraught relationship.

U.S. President George W. Bush brokered the dinner meeting between the pair at the White House, which lasted approximately two and a half hours.

"We've got a lot of challenges facing us," Bush told reporters before the trio headed in for the meeting. "We all must protect our countries. We all must work together.

"I look forward to tonight's dinner to strategize, to talk about the need to co-operate and create a hopeful future."

"These two men are personal friends of mine," Bush added. "They are strong leaders who have an understanding of the world in which we live. They understand that the forces of moderation are being challenged by extremists and radicals."

Building bridges

Bridging the differences between the pair is critical to Bush, both in aiding his fight against terror and to help his Republican party ahead of November's congressional elections, where the issues of war and security will be on voters' minds as they head to the polls.

Neither Musharraf nor Karzai spoke before heading into the meeting, though each has been in North America for much of the past week, making their respective cases.

Musharraf has been in the U.S. in part to promote his memoir titled In the Line of Fire.

In an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, he scoffed at the notion that Canadian troops were being endangered by military inaction near the Pakistan-Afghan border, arguing that his government is doing all it can to rootout the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

"You suffer two dead and you cry and shout all around the place that there are coffins," he said. "Well, we have had 500 coffins."

Since deploying in Afghanistan in 2001, 36 Canadian troops and one diplomat have been killed.

While he admits there are Taliban in Pakistan, Musharraf has chided Karzai for not taking his share of responsibility for the resurgence in violence in Afghanistan.

Musharraf contends Karzai has not done enough to rein in the lucrative opium trade in Afghanistan, which is helping finance the Taliban.

The Afghan president has said that many of the Talibanattacks emanatefrom Pakistan.

Critics have expressed concern that a peace deal Musharraf signed with tribal warlords in northeastern Waziristan earlier this month will make it harder to crack down on cross-border violence.