No plans for Musharraf-Sharon meeting
Pakistani Foreign Ministry denies summit meeting is in the works; sources at PM’s Office also say Sharon has no plans to meet Pakistani leader, but add that prime minister would not refuse such meeting if arranged; earlier, Pakistani foreign minister briefs his country’s leadership on contacts with Israel
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry says President Pervez Musharraf has no plans to meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his visit to New York this month to attend the U.N. General Assembly.
However, the Pakistani leader is set to address the American Jewish Congress in New York as part of Pakistan's efforts to promote interfaith harmony among various religions, the foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Sources at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem also denied any plans by Sharon to meet with Musharraf in New York later this month. However, the sources said "although a Sharon meeting with Musharraf is not on the agenda, if they ask for one, we won't refuse.”
Earlier, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri briefed the country’s leadership about his landmark meeting with his Israeli counterpart, hours after he returned home amid tight security, an official said.
Musharraf downplays opposition fears
President Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and other government officials attended the briefing, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
He said Kasuri “gave all details” about his meeting Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, while Musharraf downplayed opposition fears that Pakistan had taken a decision to recognize Israel.
Musharraf also said that Pakistan would not take any decision about recognizing Israel without consulting the people, lawmakers and other Muslim leaders, said the official.
Pakistan - the world’s only Islamic nuclear-armed power- in the past has taken a harder line against Israel than some Arab countries.
Diplomatic ties with four Muslim countries
On Thursday, Musharraf had said that Pakistan would not recognize Israel until the establishment of a free and independent state for the Palestinian people. Musharraf, who made Pakistan a key U.S. ally in its war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America, has been gradually moving toward conciliation with Israel, despite the influence of Islamic radical parties in the country, who enjoy strong voice in the parliament.
He has accepted an invitation to address an interfaith conference this month organized by the Council for World Jewry while he is in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly and meet with world leaders. Pakistan took the decision to hold talks with Israel after Israel vacated Gaza.
Pakistan has said Israel must abandon all other territory it captured in the 1967 Six Day war and clear the way for an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with al-Quds as its capital.
Israel currently has open diplomatic ties with only four Muslim countries - Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania.
Diana Bahur-Nir contributed to the story