US urges Pakistan to lift emergency rule

Updated: 2007-11-14 14:39

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf should lift emergency rule in his country as soon as possible and hold elections in January.

Pakistani police stand guard behind barbed wire as they block the road leading to the residence of the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, in Lahore November 13, 2007. [Agencies]

"We're just focusing on a few basics. The first is that they need to end the state of emergency as soon as possible. Secondly, they're going to need to hold these elections in January," Rice said in an interview with US media.

"But the most important thing is to get out of this state of emergency so that something like normal life can return to Pakistan," Rice said.

Musharraf said Sunday in Islamabad that general elections including the national assembly and the provincial assemblies would be held simultaneously before January 9.

However, Musharraf refused to say when he would lift the state of emergency imposed on November 3.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will travel to Pakistan to urge Musharraf to lift his emergency rule and hold free and fair elections, said US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey Tuesday.

Negroponte is expected to travel to Pakistan around the end of the week, Casey said.

The Commonwealth Monday gave Pakistan a 10-day deadline to restore its constitution and lift other emergency measures or face suspension of its membership in the 53-nation bloc.

Pakistan's foreign ministry responded Tuesday that the country strongly rejected the deadline and expressed "deep disappointment and regret" over the ultimatum.

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