Musharraf defends contacts with Israel

Pakistan's president on Sunday defended his recent attempts to engage Israel's government, saying most Pakistanis support his policy. President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, whose foreign minister recently met with his Israeli counterpart for the first time, said he enjoyed widespread support for the diplomatic breakthrough, which both sides have said was the result of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. "When we are talking to the Israelis and the Israeli foreign minister, or I address the Jewish congress, I am very clear that this is the strategic direction that Pakistan needs to take," Musharraf said on CNN's "Late Edition." "The vast majority of Pakistanis, the media, the intelligentsia, the masses, have all accepted this. Nobody is questioning me at all." Pakistani officials said Saturday that Musharraf told a visiting American Jewish leader last week that Pakistan would consider formally recognizing Israel only after the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Islamic Pakistan, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, has long demanded that the Jewish state end its occupation of Palestinian territory and that the Palestinian state should emerge on the world map with Jerusalem as its capital.