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US, Britain Concerned by Pakistan Emergency

  • VOA News

The United States and Britain expressed their "grave concern" over the state-of-emergency declaration in Pakistan Saturday, calling it a setback for Pakistani democracy.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is in Istanbul, told a reporter for CNN television she feels President Pervez Musharraf's decision to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rules is "highly regrettable." She is urging restraint on all sides and a swift return to democracy.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States expects General Musharraf to live up to his promise to step down as army chief before beginning his second term in office, and to hold elections by January 15th.

The US spokesman urged all parties to work for democracy and civilian rule, and to counter violent extremism.

In London, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Pakistan's stability, development and peaceful future rests on harnessing the power of democracy and the rule of law.

In India, Pakistan's neighbor and nuclear rival, reaction was more muted. New Delhi expressed regret for the "difficult times" Pakistan is going through, adding that India hopes normal conditions will soon be restored in the country.

Pakistan's exiled former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, called on General Musharraf to step down immediately.

President Musharraf took power in 1999 following a coup that ousted Mr. Sharif.

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