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President hosts Pakistani, Afghan presidents

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai exits an aircraft on the flightline at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 26. President Karzai visited with the commander of United States Central Command during his visit to the United States this week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jason Robertson)

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai exits an aircraft on the flightline at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 26. President Karzai visited with the commander of United States Central Command during his visit to the United States this week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jason Robertson)

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (right) talks with Army Gen. John Abizaid Sept. 26 shortly after landing at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. President Karzai visited with General Abizaid, the commander of United States Central Command, during his visit to the United States this week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jason Robertson)

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (right) talks with Army Gen. John Abizaid Sept. 26 shortly after landing at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. President Karzai visited with General Abizaid, the commander of United States Central Command, during his visit to the United States this week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jason Robertson)

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The U.S. and free countries in the Middle East need to work together to stop the spread of terrorism and ensure a hopeful future for the region, President George W. Bush said here Sept. 27 before attending a dinner with the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf came on the heels of both leaders' trips to the U.S. The ambassadors to the U.S. from Pakistan and Afghanistan, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley attended the dinner also.

"These two men are personal friends of mine; they are strong leaders who have a understanding of the world in which we live," President Bush said. "They understand that the forces of moderation are being challenged by extremists and radicals. And we're working closely together to help improve the lives of the people in Afghanistan and the people in Pakistan."

President Bush noted that he has had the chance to visit both Pakistan and Afghanistan and see firsthand the progress made in both countries. In Pakistan, he saw a compassionate government helping the country recover from a devastating earthquake, and in Afghanistan, he saw a young democracy taking root in a country that has freed itself from the Taliban regime, he said.

"We've got a lot of challenges facing us," he said. "All of us must protect our countries, but at the same time, we all must work to make the world a more hopeful place. And so today's dinner is a chance for us to strategize together, to talk about the need to cooperate, to make sure that people have got a hopeful future."

It's important for the people in Afghanistan and Pakistan to know that the U.S. respects religion, and that regardless of religious beliefs, the U.S. shares with them a common goal of eradicating terrorism and making a more hopeful world, President Bush said.

In a statement after the dinner, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said that the three leaders had a constructive exchange about the challenges facing the region. President Musharraf discussed initiatives he is pursuing in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas to improve governance, develop the region economically and enhance security, Mr. Snow said. President Karzai discussed ongoing efforts to enhance security, improve governance and accelerate development throughout Afghanistan.

"The leaders agreed on the need for common action to achieve common objectives," Mr. Snow said. "They committed to supporting moderation and defeating extremism through greater intelligence sharing, coordinated action against terrorists, and common efforts to enhance the prosperity of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan."

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