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Pervez Musharraf interview excerpts

Excerpts from NBC's Tom Brokaw's interview with a key player on the war on terror -- Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.
/ Source: NBC News

On continuing al-Qaida operations in the western portions of Pakistan:

Tom Brokaw: Is al-Qaida still operating at the same level that it was, say, a year ago? Or is terrorism in that part of the world now breaking up into smaller bands, more of them, operating more independently?

President Pervez Musharraf: Absolutely. I think you are right. In Pakistan, we are very clear, and I think it is similar in Afghanistan. As far as al-Qaida is concerned, they're on their own. We have busted them in the cities. Their leadership -- about 600 of them -- we have arrested 300.

Then we have attacked them in the mountains. We have attacked three of their very big sanctuaries in the valleys… But they're on the run now. And they're in smaller groups. Maybe there are a few more concentrations which we don't know. But they are on the run. Surely.

Brokaw:  Some people say that they're more dangerous when they're in smaller units, and that they're harder to track.

President Musharraf: Well, yes…But I think, with their bases broken, their sustenance will be difficult. So, I think, while they can operate and undertake small actions, they can't undertake big actions. And it will be difficult to sustain themselves.

On giving up his military role now that he’s Pakistan’s president:

Tom Brokaw: President Bush is determined to have elections in Iraq. It's the centerpiece of his current policy there. The same time, you're going to retain your title as the military chief of staff. You were not elected to the job as president of Pakistan. You do have more democracy at the lower levels now. When you met with the president, did he say to you, "My friend, you must give up your military title?"

President Pervez Musharraf: He didn't say that. But the second thing that I would like to contradict -- I have been elected. I've been elected by the Assembly. By the National Assembly, with a two-third vote.

As, to be a president in uniform… Two-third of our National Assembly voted for me to be in uniform. So, it's very clear that I've been elected. And more than that, then we held a referendum. Vast majority in Pakistan voted for me as the President in uniform. To continue as the president.

Although, that referendum had a lot of aspersions cast. But I have no doubt in my mind, whatever the aspersions. I know that a lot of the things went wrong. A number of things went wrong. Through over-enthusiastic supporters. And also by the opposition there. But anyway, I don't want to get into those details.

And I have -- I am elected. And, constitutionally, I'm permitted to hold these two offices, of Army Chief…

But having said that, no, sir, we didn't discuss this with the president. With President Bush.

On working towards world peace with India:

Tom Brokaw: Mr. President, you had a very important meeting today with the Indian Prime Minister Singh. There was an announcement about a gasoline pipeline that will be a cooperative venture between the two countries. But what makes the rest of the world very nervous is that you're both nuclear powers. Is there any possibility that India and Pakistan will show the world how to behave in the nuclear age by announcing jointly, "We're going to build down our nuclear arsenal, or remove it all together?"

President Pervez Musharraf: Well, that is a possibility. But, let me tell you, this has to be initiated by India. Pakistan is maintaining a deterrence level, against a threat to us. So, it is that deterrent -- it is that threat, which needs to be downscaled. Pakistan would be wanting to go ahead on it, if at all -- it has to be bilateral. It has to be between India and Pakistan.

Both of us have to agree. But first step in that direction has been taken today… the statement that we've given together, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh… and myself -- is to resolve all disputes, including the one in Kashmir, in a peaceful manner, acceptable to both our countries. Now, this is a great breakthrough.

I think this is the first step towards reduction of tension. Therefore, reduction in forces. Therefore reduction in strategic assets.

Brokaw: Would you like in your lifetime for India and Pakistan jointly to be rid of their nuclear weapons?

President Musharraf: Yes, indeed. I think the whole world. I would be in favor of the whole world reducing the nuclear arsenal. We would like to, yes. I would like it. Certainly.

On a preemptive strike on an Iranian nuclear facility:

Tom Brokaw: There's a great deal of concern about what's going on in Iran right now and its nuclear program. European countries, as well as the United States, are anxious about what appears to be a renewed effort to build a nuclear weapon in Iran. If there is a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities by the United States, or by Israel, what would be your reaction, and the reaction in the Muslim world?

President Pervez Musharraf: My official reaction would be totally -- we are not directly involved in that.

Brokaw: But doesn't Iran make you nervous, as it's building a bomb?

President Musharraf: Yes. Yes, it is a very serious matter. Bombing a country like Iran is a very serious matter. But, having said that, yes. It will have tremendous repercussions. Maybe repercussions in the public in Pakistan. And also in other parts of the Islamic world.

So therefore, I would say, in the interest of peace and harmony, I would urge both sides -- I would urge Iran and the world -- to really consider these issues very seriously, and contribute their parts to prevent such an action.

Brokaw: Doesn't it seem unlikely to you that Iran is going to stop or even slow up its nuclear weapons program?

President Musharraf: I think, if the threat is seen, then wisdom should prevail.

Brokaw: So, a year from now, Iran will have a weapon, do you think?

President Musharraf: Well, I don't know. I don't think so. And I don't know.

On catching Osama bin Laden:

Tom Brokaw: Mr. President, you were my host at your home earlier this year and we talked about the chances of catching Osama bin Laden then. There were going to be more operations at that time. And there have been. If we're to meet another nine months from now, do you think that Osama bin Laden will be in custody?

President Pervez Musharraf: I can't say for sure. It is such a matter -- it may happen in a week. Because we know there are no defense lines as such which we are penetrating, and we are close to the final objective, which is visible. He is an invisible objective. A moving objective. An invisible, moving objective.

We don't know. We may bump into him tomorrow in an operation. We are carrying out many operations. Maybe he's not there, we never bump into him. So really, I can't promise.