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Pakistan, Sharon Shake Hands at U.N.

September 15, 2005 GMT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon shook hands at a reception just before the start of the United Nations summit Wednesday.

The handshake followed a landmark meeting between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Israel last week, the first formal high-level contact between the Islamic and Jewish states.

But Musharraf played down the significance of the greeting.

``I was standing and he came in a group and shook hands with me ... he asked me how I was, I asked him how he was. That’s very good,″ Musharraf told reporters with a smile, after initially evading questions about the meeting.

Asaf Shariv, a spokesman for Sharon, said the handshake was initiated by Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade just before the summit opened. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had invited world leaders to a breakfast reception.

After shaking hands with Sharon, Shariv said Musharraf called over his wife and introduced her to the Israeli leader. He said there was no discussion.

The Pakistani leader said last week he did not plan to meet Sharon at the three-day U.N. gathering despite praising the Israeli premier as ``courageous″ for ordering the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza.

Pakistan and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, and Pakistan has in the past taken a harder line against Israel than some Arab countries.


Associated Press Writer Amy Teibel, based in Jerusalem, contributed to this report.