US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has welcomed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's declaration that he plans to step down from his military post and hold parliamentary elections.
In a television interview Sunday, on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Rice said both steps are essential to getting Pakistan back on a democratic path. But she said General Musharraf needs to lift the state of emergency he imposed a week ago.
Rice said the situation in Pakistan is not perfect and that the United States is standing by Pakistan and its people.
On the subject of US financial aid to Pakistan, which has been under review, Rice said the assistance has largely gone to programs to battle extremism and reform the economy and education.
Secretary Rice rejected criticism that the Bush administration has been too lenient on General Musharraf, and she reiterated that Pakistan is a friend and an ally.
She said US officials have been in close contact with all parties in Pakistan through the embassy.