ISLAMABAD - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday expressed U.S. fears over fresh militant attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan in a meeting with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf as he made a surprise visit to Pakistan, an official said.
Cheney arrived on Monday morning and went straight to Musharraf’s office in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, for talks on bilateral and international issues, a senior official in Musharraf’s office said on condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman.
Cheney praised Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against terrorism but also communicated his “apprehensions” about the possibility of the Taliban militia regrouping in Afghanistan to launch a spring offensive against coalition forces, the official said.
Musharraf reiterated Pakistan’s “firm” resolve against terror and said Pakistan, Afghanistan and the coalition forces must coordinate closely to tackle possible attacks, he said.
Cheney’s visit came while British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett was also in Pakistan and held talks with Musharraf on Afghanistan.
Cheney’s arrival in Pakistan was confirmed shortly after Beckett’s meeting with Musharraf was reported. But it was unclear if Cheney joined the same talks between Musharraf and Beckett.
Cheney and Musharraf also discussed the situation in Afghanistan as well as the Pakistani leader’s efforts to muster a response from Muslim nations to instability in the Middle East, the senior official said.
Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in its war against terrorism that ousted the Taliban militia from power in Afghanistan in late 2001.
The visits by Cheney and Beckett come amid growing pressure from the United States and its allies for Pakistan to move more strongly against suspected Taliban and al-Qaida training camps in its remote border region and prevent them from mounting attacks in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials had no information on whether Cheney planned to meet with other Pakistani authorities. PTV showed Cheney and Musharraf shaking hands before they sat for talks.
British Embassy spokesman Aidan Liddle said Beckett would discuss the “hot topic” of Afghanistan with Pakistani leaders. Beckett will also thank them for cooperation in counterterrorism cases, he said.
Beckett was scheduled to hold talks and a news conference with her Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Kasuri, later in the day, the British Embassy said. She also plans to meet with opposition leaders.