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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

We begin today with the diplomacy side of the war on terror. President Bush and Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, met at the White House today. Musharraf is seen by the White House as an important ally in the war on terrorism, but U.S. relations with Pakistan have often been strained since the 9/11 terror attacks.

But Presidents were asked this morning about reports that soon after 9/11 former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Musharraf that if he did not help fight terrorism, the United States would bomb Pakistan back into the Stone Age.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't know of any conversation that was reported in the newspaper like that. I just don't know about it.

President PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I would like to - I'm launching my book on the 25th and I'm honor bound to Simon and Schuster not to comment on the book before that day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

President BUSH: In other words, buy the book, is what he's saying.

BRAND: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea joins us. Don, they certainly appeared friendly in that appearance, but what's going on behind the scenes in terms of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.

DON GONYEA: It was a casual, congenial moment. I have to tell you, I've been to a lot of news conferences with a lot of politicians, and I thought I had heard just about every way imaginable to avoid answering a direct question. It's the first time I've heard someone stand in the East Room in the White House - a head of state, no less - and said wait till the book comes out. It was a very bizarre moment.

But really in a more serious way it does kind of get to the crux of the relationship between these two leaders, these two countries. Musharraf has cooperated with the U.S. since 9/11. There have been complaints sometimes that it hasn't been enough. Sometimes he gets in trouble at home if he's, you know, seen as bending too much to the wills of the U.S. president. But all of that was on display today.

BRAND: And a dispute came up this week at the U.N. President Bush talked about possibly sending troops to Pakistan should there be any intelligence that Osama bin Laden is hiding out there, and Musharraf rejected that. So any developments of that?

GONYEA: Today they decided clearly to be on the same page on this issue. Both said, why are you focusing so much on strategy? Why not focus on the end goal that they both share, capturing Osama bin Laden?

Musharraf said that the U.S. and Pakistan, they're in the hunt together against these people, he called them. He says, why are bothering with the how-to and the tactics. He said, if it comes down and it's time to strike, he said Pakistan knows how to do what it needs to do.

BRAND: Well, it seems a difficult balancing act for Musharraf. He's to keep an eye back home on how his comments are playing out there, right?

GONYEA: And that is why it is so important for him to be here. And you could see, watching these two men side by side in the formal East Room of the White House - I wouldn't say President Bush was being differential. He was, though, really trying to make sure he was giving Musharraf the respect that an important ally in the war on terrorism has - has coming to them. And that's important for Musharraf to be able to have that signal sent back home.

BRAND: All right, NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea, thank you.

GONYEA: My pleasure.

BRAND: And just a programming note later today. On most public radio stations ALL THINGS CONSIDERED will have an interview with Richard Armitage.

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