Pakistan's Musharraf, Rival Discuss Sharing Power - 29 July, Washington Post.

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto appeared to draw closer to an improbable alliance Saturday, with a top Musharraf adviser confirming that the two had met and pronouncing the exchange "very successful."

The Pakistani news media reported the meeting Friday, but the government denied it at the time. On Saturday, however, federal minister Sheikh Rashid said the usually bitter rivals had held discussions in the United Arab Emirates aimed at creating a power-sharing arrangement. Representatives for Bhutto, who has been living in exile since 1999 and leads the country's largest opposition party, would not confirm the meeting for the record but also would not deny it.

Musharraf has been struggling in recent months with vigorous challenges to his eight-year rule. They have come both from Islamic extremists waging a violent insurgency as well as from moderate forces looking to oust the president and end military rule through upcoming elections.

With his popularity in decline, Musharraf badly needs allies. Bhutto needs a way back into the country without facing criminal charges relating to alleged corruption. She has said she wants to return for a third term as prime minister, even though that is now barred by the Pakistani constitution.

While the two leaders have vastly different visions for Pakistan, both are regarded as moderates. An alliance would probably be welcomed by the United States and other Western powers that are hoping that moderate forces can unite to battle rising militancy in Pakistan.

"The country is in a serious crisis," Rashid said in an interview on Pakistan's Dawn News television station. "So we have to move fast, and we have to move to national consensus."

Negotiations have been reported for months, but a face-to-face meeting indicates they have reached an advanced stage ...

Interesting developments - meetings between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto now confirmed, as have been rumored for weeks. Interesting to see if a Bhutto-Musharraf alliance will coopt a significant portion of the civilian opposition that is the greatest threat to Musharraf.