The United States and the United Nations on Saturday welcomed a speech by Pakistan's President Musharraf, in which he announced new steps to combat terrorism and extremism.
"I welcome President Musharraf's speech. He has taken a bold and principled stand to set Pakistan squarely against terrorism and extremism both in and outside of Pakistan," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Musharraf's emphasis on "tolerance, the rule of law and the need to fight terrorism and extremism," he said, through spokesman Fred Eckhard.
Musharraf banned two Kashmiri militant groups blamed by India for the December 13 attack on its parliament but warned his country would meet any aggression from its neighbor with "full force".
"The United States applauds the banning of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and welcomes President Musharraf's explicit statements against terrorism and particularly notes his pledge that Pakistan will not tolerate terrorism under any pretext, including Kashmir," said Powell.
India and Pakistan have massed an estimated 800,000 troops on their common border as the dispute over control of Kashmir continues to heat up between the two nuclear powers.
Musharraf had strong words for India, but also made conciliatory gestures during his speech.
"President Musharraf's offer to (Indian) Prime Minister Vajpayee to solve their differences through dialogue is encouraging. This speech reconfirms Pakistan's role as a front-line state in the war against global terrorism," said Powell's statement.
Musharraf spent much of his speech justifying his actions to his citizens at home so as not to appear to bend to international pressures. In particular, he ruled out meeting India's demand to extradite 20 radicals.
He also vowed there would be no softening of Pakistan's stance on Kashmir, the divided territory that has been the cause of two of the three wars between the countries over the last half-century.
Britain also welcomed Musharraf's words. Indian leaders say they are examining his text closely.
Earlier, a senior State Department official said Musharraf's statement was "a very welcome statement of condemnation of terrorism, including of the groups that have been carrying out terrorism in Kashmir."
"It provides the basis for a Pakistani society for the future without extremism," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Annan said through his spokesman that Musharraf's words were a gesture toward regional peace.
"The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to reiterate his conviction that the differences between India and Pakistan can only be resolved peacefully," said Eckhard.
"He was glad to note in this connection the reference in President Musharraf's speech to the need for a solution in Kashmir through dialogue and by peaceful means."
(China Daily January 14, 2002)