Islamabad In Lockdown For Bush Visit

Pakistani protestors burn the U.S. flag during an anti U.S. rally in Karachi, Pakistan on Friday, March 3, 2006. Anti-U.S. protests erupted across Pakistan with crowds burning American flags, chanting "Death to Bush" and scuffling with police just hours before the U.S. leader was to arrive for visit. AP

President Bush arrived in Pakistan amid tight security late Friday on the final leg of a South Asian tour.

President George Bush and his Pakistani counterpart were set to discuss this Muslim nation's role in the U.S.-led war on terror Saturday, during a high-profile, high-security visit.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf formally welcomed Mr. Bush on Saturday morning at his official residence in Islamabad, where the U.S. leader inspected an honor guard in the forecourt before walking inside for talks.

Arriving from neighboring India, Mr. Bush landed at an airbase in Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Air Force One landed after dark, with its lights off and window shades pulled down to conceal the plane. Other precautions included setting both a helicopter and a motorcade off from the airport; reporters are still unclear which one transported Mr. Bush. Reporters had already been misinformed that it would be a Saturday landing, CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

The security precautions underscored the very real, continuing terrorist threat in this poor, conservative Muslim country where an American diplomat was killed one day earlier in a bomb attack.

In anticipation of violenc, Pakistani police detained Imran Khan, the leader of a small opposition party, at his Islamabad home ahead of a planned protest Saturday against Mr. Bush's visit, and rounded up dozens of party supporters, his spokesman said.

The two-day visit is a public show of solidarity for Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has had to survive repeated assassination attempts made, in part, because of his support for the U.S.-led war on terror.

Crowds in several Pakistani cities greeted Mr. Bush's visit with burning U.S. flags and chants of "Death to Bush." A top Interior Ministry official said "foolproof arrangements" guaranteed Mr. Bush's safety.

In Karachi, police broke up a demonstration with tear gas after crowds yelled "go back, Bush" while burning an effigy, Axelrod reports.

"I will meet with President Musharraf to discuss Pakistan's vital cooperation in the war on terror and our efforts to foster economic and political development so that we can reduce the appeal of radical Islam," Mr. Bush said shortly before taking off for Pakistan. "I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world."

Later, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that Mr. Bush meant to say Pakistan would be a force for freedom and moderation in the Muslim world. Pakistan is not an Arab country.

Though Pakistan is a key U.S. partner in routing out terrorists, Osama bin Laden is believed to be still hiding along the porous and mountainous border with Afghanistan. On Thursday, a suicide car bomber killed a U.S. diplomat and three others in a strike near the U.S. consulate in the southern port city of Karachi, a hotbed of Islamic militancy.

Pakistan's government promised ironclad security for Mr. Bush's visit, with one official saying hundreds of army commandos and paramilitary troops would be patrolling the capital.

Islamabad is in a state of lockdown, with checkpoints on every road leading into the capital. But most roads are deserted.

"We have made foolproof arrangements for the safe stay of President Bush, and we do not think there will be any problem," said Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a senior Interior Ministry official who also coordinates with U.S. authorities on counterterrorism issues.
  • Joel Roberts

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