WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet this week with the leader of Pakistan's military government, a key Bush administration ally in the fight against terrorism, amid complaints that the United States is showing favoritism to Pakistan's arch rival, India.
Rice will "express the United States' strong support of Pakistan as a partner in many areas, including the War on Terror," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday.
Rice also plans to meet with counterparts from the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Moscow on Thursday, where the topic is expected to be Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Nuclear issues will figure in Rice's talks with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan has complained unsuccessfully that it should receive the same civilian nuclear help the United States intends to give India.
Under the deal with India, considered a major U.S. policy shift, the United States would ship nuclear technology and fuel. In return, India would allow international inspections and safeguards at nuclear reactors it has designated as civilian.
Anti-American sentiment runs deep in Muslim Pakistan, inflamed by the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a U.S. missile strike in January in a village in northwestern Pakistan that killed 13 residents. It had been intended to kill Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but he apparently wasn't there.
President Bush visited the country in March, and said America's partnership with Pakistan "begins with close cooperation in the War on Terror."
Bush stopped short of criticizing Musharraf's record on democracy even though the military leader has reneged on a promise to give up his position as army chief, the main source of his power, by the end of 2004.
Rice is expected to press Musharraf to hold to planned elections next year.