President Bush has called on the Pakistani president to lift an emergency decree.
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) - President Bush on Saturday called for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to lift an emergency decree that has plunged the nation into chaos, while noting that pledges by Musharraf to step down as army chief and hold elections next year are "positive steps."
Bush, speaking at his ranch in Crawford, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his side, told reporters he has not spoken to the Pakistani leader since earlier this week. But "he knows my position, and he knows the position of the U.S. government," he said. "Our message is consistent and clear."
The United States and Pakistan share a common goal in their efforts to eradicate al Qaeda, Bush said. But he said he is concerned about Pakistan straying from the path of democracy. Holding scheduled elections will ensure the nation stays on that path, the president added.
The office of Pakistani Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum told CNN on Saturday that the emergency declaration will be lifted within one month, but would not say when a formal announcement might come.
Bush said he believes lifting the declaration would "make it easier for democracy to flourish."
But he continued to stand behind Musharraf, saying, "I take a person at their word until otherwise" and that he deserves time to keep his promises.
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Musharraf decided to stand with the United States against extremism after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush said, and has been instrumental in bringing several al Qaeda leaders to justice.
He and Merkel said they had discussed a variety of subjects, including Iran, the Middle East, trade negotiations and climate change.
The threat posed by a potential nuclear program in Iran is "a serious one," Merkel said. But she said she and Bush agreed the Iranian issue can be solved through diplomatic means. The next step, she said, will be a U.N. Security Council resolution, and work is under way to prepare for that.
If talks with Iranian representatives and Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for the European Union, are unsuccessful, Merkel said, "further steps will have to be made." Those might include further sanctions, she said.
Germany has reviewed its business ties with Iran, and may make further reductions in those if circumstances warrant, she said.
"What the Iranian regime must understand is, we will continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically, which means they will continue to be isolated," Bush said.
"What the Iranian people must understand is, we respect their heritage, we respect their traditions, we respect their potential. It's their government that has made the decisions that are denying them a bright future."
Asked what will be done if diplomatic efforts are exhausted, Bush told a reporter he "didn't feel comfortable" answering a "hypothetical."
However, Merkel said, "I'm deeply convinced diplomatic possibilities have not yet been exhausted. We can solve this by using diplomatic means, and also we want to solve this by diplomatic means."
Both leaders said any Security Council action will require the support of China and Russia.
Bush said the two also discussed reforming the U.N. Security Council, an issue he acknowledged he has been "studiously noncommittal" on. The United States believes Japan should have a seat on the council, he said, and other than that, "we're for U.N. Security Council reforms, and I'm willing to listen to good ideas. Angela brought up some good ideas today."
For her part, Merkel pledged, "we're going to continue to work towards reform."