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Commonwealth upholds Pakistan suspension
( 2003-09-28 10:55) (Agencies)

Foreign ministers of the Commonwealth nations decided Saturday to maintain Pakistan's suspension from the 54-nation group's decision-making councils.

Repeated deadlocks between the government and opposition in Pakistan made it clear more needed to be done toward restoring democracy, the Commonwealth ministers said in a statement after their two-day meeting in New York.

The grouping of Britain and its former colonies suspended Pakistan from its decision-making councils following the military coup in 1999 led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, now the country's president.

In a press conference at the United Nations on Wednesday, Musharraf stressed that Pakistan was taking steps toward full democracy. Pakistan has spent half of its history under military rule since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

The Ministerial Action Group, composed of foreign ministers from Australia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Malta, Nigeria and Samoa, was meeting Friday and Saturday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting.

The ministers said they would discuss Zimbabwe, which has also been suspended from the councils, at the next heads of government meeting in Abuja, Nigeria in December.

Formerly known as the British Commonwealth, the Commonwealth's member states include Britain, India, Pakistan, Canada, Australia, many Pacific and Caribbean Island nations and several African states.

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