WASHINGTON - Amid growing rumours that President Pervez Musharraf plans to leave office, President George W Bush offered renewed backing on Friday for Pakistan during a telephone call he made to the Pakistani leader. "The President reiterated the United States' strong support for Pakistan and he indicated he looked forward to President Musharraf's continuing role in further strengthening US-Pakistani relations," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters. Diplomatic observers here regard the timing of the telephone call as significant. Late on Thursday, Musharraf denied a story in a Pakistani newspaper that said he had decided to quit. It was the latest speculation that Musharraf might resign since an election in February brought to power a coalition that would like to see him leave office sooner or later. Bush met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Egypt earlier this month where the two pledged to fight terrorism. Pakistan has been a key US ally as American forces try to hunt down Al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban militants along the country's border with Afghanistan. Ms Perino said the conversation was a follow-up to Bush's recent meeting in Egypt with the Prime Minister. Online adds: President Bush exchanged views with President Musharraf over war against terrorism, Pak-US relations, current political situation in Pakistan and the accord with local Taliban during a hotline contact. Reliable sources informed that President Musharraf apprised his American counterpart about the the war on terror and extremism and also informed about the efforts of the current democratic effectively tackle extremists on its border with Afghanistan. Speaking en route to Singapore to attend a regional security conference, Gates said the coalition government in Islamabad was still trying to feel its way. It launched talks with local Taliban militants soon after winning elections in February, amid concern that US-backed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's military approach was spawning more violence. "Clearly Pakistan is in a transition, the civilian government is still relatively new, and I think until they get their feet on the ground and get a full appreciation of the nature of the threats that they face and their approach to it, I think we just have to give them a little time," Gates told reporters. Asked if it was just a question of transition, he responded: "I certainly hope so." On Thursday, the head of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, US General Dan McNeill, said that a recent increase in attacks in the east of the country was because there was no pressure on the extremists from Pakistan's side of the border. McNeill also raised a lack of dialogue between NATO forces, Afghanistan's leaders and Islamabad over the border issue, but Gates said that "my impression is that communications between Pakistani military forces along the border and our own is still good." Meanwhile, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said insurgents will pose a challenge to the country for years to come if safe havens continue to exist across the border in Pakistan. Gen Dan McNeill, who leaves his post next week after 15 months, also said peace deals on the other side of the border - a reference to Pakistan - were behind a recent spike in violence in Afghanistan. "If there are going to be sanctuaries where these terrorists, these extremists, these insurgents can train, can recruit, can regenerate, there's still going to be a challenge there," McNeill said in an interview with an American news agency. McNeill, 61, said a double-digit percentage increase in violent incidents in eastern Afghanistan versus spring 2007 was because of a lack of pressure on insurgents in Pakistan, where a new government is seeking peace deals with militants. NATO has said there was a 50 percent spike in violence in eastern Afghanistan in April when compared with 2007. "We've also monitored and reported in the past what happens when there are so-called peace negotiations with these terrorists and extremists inside those sanctuaries," McNeill said. "And when there have been (negotiations), there has been a spike in the untoward events on our side of the border."