President George W Bush is evidently hoping that in the spirit of Ramadan, the Iftar dinner he will host on Wednesday evening at the White House for the Pakistani and Afghan Presidents Pervez Musharraf and Hamid Karzai respectively would help alleviate the tension between the two leaders and help them bury the hatchet in the wake of allegations and accusations levelled against each other following the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
But appearing at a joint press conference with Karzai in the East Room of the White House after a two-hour meeting with the Afghan leader, Bush asserted that he did not believe the tensions between the two leaders is undermining the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Bush said, "No. No, it doesn't," when asked if this tension was a bane on locating and apprehending bin Laden, and argued that "it's in President's Karzai's interest to see bin Laden brought to justice. It is in President Musharraf's interest to see bin Laden brought to justice. Our interests coincide."
Then he teased, "You know, it will be interesting for me to watch the body language of these two leaders to determine how tense things are."
Karzai immediately chimed in, "I'll be good," to much laughter.
Bush recalled that "from my discussions with President Karzai and President Musharraf, there is an understanding that by working together it is more likely that all of us can achieve a common objective, which are stable societies that are hopeful societies that prevent extremists from stopping progress and denying people a hopeful world."
"I know that's what President Karzai thinks. I know that's how President Musharraf thinks, and so I am kind of teasing about their body language for the dinner on Wednesday night, but it's going to be a good dinner and it's an important dinner," Bush said.
Bush reiterated, "So in answer to you, the answer is no. What you perceive as tensions, (is) it stopping us from bringing high value targets to justice? Quite the contrary -- we are working as hard as ever in doing that."
Earlier, in response to a question as to what he thinks of Musharraf's swipe at him that he needs to get to know his own country better before he accuses Pakistan of fomenting terrorism across the border, Karzai said, "On the remarks of my brother President Musharraf, Afghanistan is a country that is emerging out of so many years of war, destruction and occupation and the terrorism and misery that they brought to us."
"We lost almost two generations to the lack of education and those who were educated before that are now older. We know our problems, we have difficulties, but we also know where the problem is -- in extremism in madrassas preaching hatred," he argued.
"Places under the name of madrassas are preaching hatred. That's what we should do together to stop. The United States as our ally is helping both countries and I think this is very important that we have more dedication and more intense work with sincerity -- all of us -- to get rid of the problems that we have around the world," Karzai said.