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Cheney Pushes Pakistan to Fight Al-Qaida

Vice President Dick Cheney visits Pakistan, seeking help in countering al-Qaida's efforts to regroup in the region. However, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf insists his forces have already done as much as possible against extremists in their territory.

Wending his way home from five days in the Far East and Australia, Vice President Cheney's visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan were not included on the official public schedule for the trip.

But there was no denial of reports that Cheney's mission was to issue a message to Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. The message? A warning that Pakistan must do more to fight terrorism or risk losing U.S. financial aid — now that Democrats are in control of the Congress.

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Cheney flew into Pakistan on a plane bearing none of the highly recognizable United States of America markings that adorn the usual Air Force Two. Upon landing, the vice president headed immediately to a meeting with President Musharraf at the Palace in Islamabad.

The pair staged a brief photo-op, but no news conference. A Musharraf aide, speaking anonymously, told reporters that Cheney expressed great apprehension about al-Qaida and its increased presence in remote tribal regions of Pakistan, where Pakistani forces last year struck a deal with tribal leaders.

The Pakistani aide also said Cheney warned of a spring offensive by the Taliban.

Back at the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow seemed determined to downplay any suggestion of an ultimatum.

"We have not been saying it's a 'tough message,'" Snow said. He later added, "The vice president is meeting with President Musharraf because we do understand the importance of making even greater progress against al-Qaida, against the Taliban."

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From Islamabad, Cheney flew to Kabul, Afghanistan. But bad weather, including a heavy snow storm, put his mission on hold. Any message he hopes to deliver to President Hamid Karzai will have to wait until Tuesday.

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