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Allies try to quell a storm

Pakistani meets with Bush to talk of deadly airstrike

WASHINGTON -- Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, said yesterday he expressed concerns to President Bush about a deadly US missile attack that has increased tensions between the two countries.

Aziz said he and Bush agreed that better communication between the allies was necessary, though they didn't establish specifics.

''We leave it to our officials," he said, adding that representatives of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan would meet to discuss the attack in the next few days. ''That's the appropriate forum to discuss those issues."

Aziz said that at their nearly two-hour meeting the leaders agreed they should improve their coordination ''because our objectives are common . . . to fight terrorism and build a peaceful environment around us."

Earlier yesterday, Bush said the United States and Pakistan are working closely to defeat terrorism, but he did not comment on the Jan. 13 American airstrikes near the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Bush also announced that he would visit Pakistan and India in March.

Bush met in the Oval Office with Aziz, a visit that took place as many in the Islamic nation are criticizing the United States for the airstrike, which killed at least 13 civilians, including women and children. There were indications that Al Qaeda members were also killed in the attack.

''The relationship with Pakistan is a vital relationship for the United States," Bush said. ''I want to thank the prime minister and thank the president for working closely with us on a variety of issues. We're working closely to defeat the terrorists that would like to harm America and harm Pakistan."

Bush has not commented on the missile strike in a remote area near the Afghan border, which the Americans say was aimed at Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri.

In Oslo, the president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, said Al Qaeda members might have been killed in a US airstrike. ''These foreigners are there, and we need to eliminate these foreigners," Musharraf said following a speech at the Nobel Institute.

''There is an indication that there were some people also, Al Qaeda people, who have got killed, and we need to ascertain that. I'm not 100 percent sure," Musharraf said in answer to an audience question.

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