U.S. wants to help protect Pakistan: Bush

The United States wants to help Pakistan protect itself, U.S. President George W. Bush told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday.

Zardari says his country can solve its problems

The United States wants to help Pakistan protect itself, U.S. President George W. Bush told the Pakistani leader on Tuesday.

The first face-to-face meeting between Bush and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari took place amid growing concerns in the country about U.S. military strikes aimed at al-Qaeda and Taliban along the remote Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Washington has urged Pakistan to assert control in the region, a haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who cross into Afghanistan to attack American and NATO troops, as well as for Pakistani extremists.

But the U.S. incursions have angered many Pakistanis and resulted in public protests against what demonstrators call a violation of the country's sovereignty.

"Your words have been very strong about Pakistan's sovereign right and sovereign duty to protect your country, and the United States wants to help," Bush said. "Pakistan is an ally, and I look forward to deepening our relationship."

Bush met with Zardari at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel before addressing the UN General Assembly for the last time. Bush told the assembly the world must be vigilant in combating terrorists and extremists.

During the meeting at the hotel, Zardari acknowledged Pakistan has problems but said the country would confront them, according to Reuters.

60 insurgents killed, military officials say

"We have a situation, we have issues, we've got problems," Zardari told reporters. "But we will solve them and we will rise to the occasion."

Security forces backed by helicopter gunship and artillery killed more than 60 insurgents in northwest Pakistan in offensives aimed at denying al-Qaeda and Taliban militants safe havens, Pakistan military officials said on Tuesday.

Bush also expressed his condolences for the 53 people killed after a truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, on Saturday, according to Reuters.

Among the dead were the Czech ambassador and two U.S. Defence Department employees.

Another 260 people were wounded when the truck bomb went off outside the hotel.

The two leaders also discussed economic issues before attending the UN General Assembly.

With files from the Associated Press