U.S. President George W. Bush has offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general "hasn't crossed the line" and "truly is somebody who believes in democracy," the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The latest remarks made by Bush in an interview with ABC News anchor on Tuesday contrasted with the U.S. administration's previous statements, which expressed grave concern over Musharraf's announcement of emergency rule.
The shift appeared part of a broader strategy to ease the crisis in Pakistan. the Washington Post said.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Sate John D. Negroponte carried a terse message to Musharraf during talks last weekend, urging the general to step down as chief of the army.
The Bush administration is expecting Musharraf to shed his military uniform by the end of the month, an unidentified administration official was quoted as saying.
Pakistani authorities released about 3,000 political prisoners Tuesday, although some 2,000 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry.