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Sarkozy meeting with Musharraf “very important” – official


Paris : French officials stressed here Friday the importance of a meeting in Paris January 22 between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who will be on a two-day visit to the French capital.

“It is a very important meeting at a time when Pakistan is going through a very difficult and delicate period after the odious assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27 last,” Sarkozys spokesman David Martinon said at a briefing.

The French official said that the meeting next week was a follow-up to a telephone conversation two Presidents held on December 30 and after the visit to Pakistan, on orders from Sarkozy, of Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who attended Bhuttos funeral.

“France was the first major country to send a senior official on the spot after the bombing,” Martinon indicated.

During the forthcoming talks, Sarkozy will “repeat Frances solidarity with the Pakistani people during their trial.” The two men will also discuss the elections that are to be held in Pakistan in February and which were postponed from early January because of the killing of the opposition figure, Bhutto.

“The only response to terrorism or for terrorists is the holding of elections in the best possible conditions of freedom, pluralism, transparency and security,” Sarkozy will tell the Pakistani leader, reiterating his views already expressed on December 30.

The French leader will assure Musharraf of Frances support for Pakistan in its fight against terrorism “because we think the world has an interest in the stability, unity and democratization of Pakistan, and notably with regard to the situation in Afghanistan,” Martinon stated.

He noted that Sarkozy was able “to measure the importance of Pakistan” during a visit to Afghanistan that he made at the end of last year.