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DATE=10/18/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=COHEN / MIDEAST / PAKISTAN (L) NUMBER=2-255194 BYLINE=SCOTT BOBB DATELINE=CAIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: U-S Secretary of Defense William Cohen says he is encouraged by the speech of Pakistan's new military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf. The U-S official made the remarks Monday as he began a nine-nation tour of the Middle East. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from our Middle East Bureau in Cairo. TEXT: Secretary Cohen told reporters the U-S government regrets the military takeover in Pakistan and hopes the new military leadership will fulfill its pledge to return to democratic rule, sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, Cohen said he is encouraged by the Pakistani leader's remark that he wants to reduce tensions with neighboring India. The U-S Defense Secretary made the remarks Monday after arriving in Bahrain, the first stop of his week- long trip to the Middle East. Earlier, he acknowledged there is frustration about the lack of progress in the stalemate over Iraq, but reaffirmed the need to maintain pressure on the Iraqi government in order to contain its regional ambitions. The newspaper of Iraq's ruling Baath Party, Al-Thawra, accused Mr. Cohen of trying to scare nations in the region, in its words, by brandishing the so-called fear of an Iraqi threat. The newspaper called on governments in the Middle East to send the U-S official packing. Mr. Cohen said he is visiting nine nations in the region in order to underscore the U-S government's long-term commitment to the region and the value it places on its relationships with individual countries here. /// Opt /// In the Gulf, the secretary is to meet with senior leaders in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. He also plans to visit Israel, Jordan and Egypt. While in Egypt, he is to observe the Bright Star military exercises, in which a reported 70-thousand troops from 11 nations are participating. /// End opt /// (SIGNED) NEB/SB/GE/LTD/JP 18-Oct-1999 13:28 PM EDT (18-Oct-1999 1728 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .