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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Musharraf's exit seen ending Pakistan's contacts with Israel

JERUSALEM — The resignation of President Pervez Musharraf marks the end of Pakistan's quiet effort to develop relations with Israel.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry saw Musharraf as the leading advocate of Pakistani relations with the Jewish state. Ministry officials said Musharraf, opposed by many in the military and intelligence community, met senior Israeli officials and American Jewish leaders.

"We were not surprised by Musharraf's resignation, and we now expect a more hostile leadership," a ministry source said.

In 2005, Musharraf, urged by the United States, greeted and shook the hand of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the United Nations. Since then, Musharraf and his allies met other Israeli leaders and prominent American Jews.

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An Israeli source said Pakistan conducted a security dialogue with the Jewish state in 2006. The source said Israelis were also allowed to enter Pakistan on special permits for both tourism and business.

In 2007, Pakistani relations with Israel began to unravel. In November of that year, Musharraf was forced to leave the military, which formed the basis of his power.

"Since then, Musharraf has had little time for anything other than survival," the Israeli source said. "Very little took place on the level of bilateral relations with Israel."

Musharraf's last meeting with a senior Israeli official took place in January 2008. The Pakistani president was said to have met Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Paris.

On Aug. 18, Musharraf, threatened with impeachment, announced his resignation after nine years in office. The Israeli Foreign Ministry expected Musharraf to be replaced by an Islamist leadership that would seek to reconcile with Al Qaida elements in Pakistan.

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