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Pakistan's Sharif Deported to Saudi Arabia


Pakistan's former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has been deported to Saudi Arabia after attempting to return home following seven years in exile.

Mr. Sharif arrived in Jeddah just hours after he flew to Islamabad, where he had planned to challenge President Pervez Musharraf in upcoming elections.

After a 90-minute standoff with authorities on the airplane in Islamabad on Monday, Mr. Sharif was taken to the airport terminal. He was arrested on what officials say were charges of corruption and money laundering, and then put on a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Sharif's party later said it will fight his deportation in the Supreme Court, which last month cleared the way for his return.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormick says the decision to deport Mr. Sharif runs contrary to that Supreme Court decision.

McCormick says the situation is a pending legal matter -- but warned all involved in the political transition to turn away from violence and adhere to the rule of law.

Mr. Sharif was ousted from power in 1999 in a bloodless coup by General Musharraf.

His brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who stayed behind in London, called the deportation a blow to the people of Pakistan.

Authorities have detained hundreds of the former prime minister's supporters.

The former prime minister's return was seen as a serious challenge to President Musharraf. The president has lost much of his support since his attempt to dismiss Pakistan's top judge six months ago triggered nationwide anti-government protests.

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