Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Friday praised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "courageous" For ordering the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza.
Musharraf said he was encouraged by Sharon's actions, but that he was not planning to meet with the Israeli leader on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York that both men will attend later this month.
"I think such actions need courage and boldness," Musharraf said of the Gaza withdrawal, in an exclusive
interview with The Associated Press. "What we have seen on the TV, Israelis not wanting to leave, being forced out, is a courageous thing to do.
"We hope that he shows (an) equal amount of courage finally in the creation of the Palestinian state."
Musharraf's comments follow a landmark meeting between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Israel in Turkey last week, the first formal high-level contact between the Islamic and Jewish states, which fueled speculation of a possible summit in New York.
"Why should there be a rush?" Musharraf said about meeting Sharon. "We are clear in our stance. We want to progress toward resolution of the Palestinian dispute, and as progress is
made, Pakistan would like to keep its reviewing its diplomatic stance."
Pakistan has in the past taken a harder line against Israel than some Arab countries. Musharraf said that while Pakistan wants creation of an independent Palestine, he hinted that it would consider establishing diplomatic relations for the first time if Israel took concrete steps
toward that goal.
"I can't really give a cut line," he said about when formal ties could be established, "But I'm always a believer in reacting before events, of foreseeing events and reacting accordingly ... I don't believe in reaction, I believe in action."
Despite calls by a hard-line Pakistani Islamic coalition for protests against his initiation of contacts with
Israel, Musharraf said the response in Pakistan - a predominantly Muslim country of 150 million people - to the Turkey meeting had been good.
"I see a positive response on the domestic side," he said.