WASHINGTON – President Bush urged Pakistan's president on Monday to continue his crackdown on terrorist groups to provide "pressure relief" and avert a war with India.
"I think it's very important for President (Pervez) Musharraf to make a clear statement to the world that he intends to crack down on terror," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office.
"And I believe if he does that, and continues to do what he's doing, it will provide relief, pressure relief, on a situation that's still serious," Bush said.
"I don't believe the situation is defused yet, but I do believe there is a way to do so," the president said.
Bush spoke on a day when Musharraf met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, shuttling between the two countries in hopes of averting war. Musharraf issued a statement that said: "Pakistan rejects terrorism in all its forms and manifestations." That marked a break from the past, when Musharraf has insisted that Pakistan considers Islamic militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed area of Kashmir to be not terrorists but "freedom fighters."
Pakistan has made mass arrests of militants in the last two weeks, including of a longtime leader of a group accused in an attack on India's Parliament last month that killed nine Indians and the five attackers.
India had no immediate comment on Musharraf's latest statement but has said previously that Pakistan needs to do more.
"We are working hard to convince both the Indians and the Pakis there's a way to deal with their problems without going to war," Bush said. Bush did not mention any requests he has made of Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
On Sunday, Blair and Bush spoke for 15 minutes after Blair met with Vajpayee.
At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was considering whether to send a senior U.S. official to the region.
The United States believes Musharraf "is committed to dismantling these groups, which threaten Pakistan as well as its neighbors," Boucher said.
"It's clear to us that President Musharraf has been moving forward and intends to continue to move forward against militants," the State Department spokesman said.
But the United States remains concerned about firing along the U.N.-designated line that separates the two sides in Kashmir, Boucher said. On Monday, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged heavy artillery fire there.